New alliance aims to help eradicate maternity discrimination at work

Pregnant workerA new alliance between leading businesses and the Equality and Human Rights Commission is being launched today to combat the level of pregnancy and maternity discrimination that affects around 390,000 pregnant women and new mothers each year. A coalition of businesses in the initiative ‘Working Forward – supporting pregnancy and maternity rights’, aims to inspire other organisations to follow their example by working to eradicate discrimination from their businesses and show employers how to attract, develop and retain women at work. The launch follows the EHRC’s recent landmark research, carried out in conjunction with the former Department from Business, Innovation and Skills which highlighted that while the majority of employers say they are firm supporters of female staff during and after pregnancy and find it easy to comply with the law, three in four (77 percent) mothers say they have had a negative or possibly discriminatory experience at work.

The research found that while women make up half of the UK workforce, more than two million women who are not working want to work and over one and half million women in work would like to do more hours. If women’s participation in the labour market increased to roughly the same as men’s, it would add 10 percent to the size of the economy by 2030.The business benefit is also clear with evidence showing top performing companies for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to perform better financially than the average.

The high-profile founding members including Barclays, Royal Mail and BT Group, will encourage businesses in their supply chains to sign up to the coalition and pledge to make their workplaces the best they can be for pregnant women and new mothers. The founders will share their knowledge, experience and good practice with businesses who sign up, as well as highlighting the economic benefits they get from retaining the talent and experience of their female employees.

The members will help drive long-term positive change through actions such as nominating a gender equality champion at board level, training and supporting line managers, and promoting family friendly policies including advertising all jobs as open to flexible working where appropriate. These actions will help businesses begin to tackle the pressing challenges they face to reduce their pay gaps, and enable women to develop their careers within companies.

David Isaac, Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: “We can no longer accept women being unfairly treated at work because they are pregnant or on maternity leave. We are calling on employers to sign up to our initiative to commit to delivering equality and ensure working environments benefit everyone.

“Attracting, developing and retaining talent, regardless of gender, is absolutely critical for the UK economy and for our businesses. Companies that show a real commitment to this are not only doing the right thing but can also gain a competitive edge.

“Our Working Forward founding members all recognise the importance of women in their workforces. Together, we want to raise the bar across the business community and ultimately improve the experiences of employers and employees.”

The campaign also has the backing of influential business bodies such as the CBI, Institute of Directors (IOD), the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), and the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

Click on the link for more information on Working Forward.

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