Have You Experienced Pregnancy Discrimination In The Workplace?
Recent research by the Human Rights Commission in the UK highlights the extent of pregnancy discrimination happening in workplaces. In a study of over 3,200 mothers, they found that 11% of mothers reported that they were either dismissed, made compulsorily redundant or treated so poorly that they left their jobs.
They also found that one in five had experienced harassment or negative comments related to pregnancy or flexible working. As many as 10% of mothers said their employer discouraged them from attending antenatal appointments.
Pregnancy discrimination in Ireland is covered under the Employment Equality Act and the Maternity Protection Act. Under the current law, if you are pregnant, you are entitled to not be treated less favourably in your workplace than someone else who is not pregnant. Despite this, however, expectant mothers in employment in Ireland still face significant barriers to equal treatment.
In Ireland, the most recent and only comprehensive study was conducted by the Crisis Pregnancy Agency in 2011 and they found that whilst 71% of employers were supportive of employees who were pregnant, three in ten reported unfair treatment. This included 5% of employees who were dismissed as a result of announcing their pregnancy, 12% receiving unfair treatments and 8% reporting negative comments relating to their pregnancy.
Robert McNamara, Industrial Officer with MANDATE has the following advice on pregnancy discrimination. ‘We would advise anyone who thinks that they are being discriminated against to start keeping a diary, keep all of your emails and document meetings and any remarks made. We would advise any employee not to leave their employment if they think they are the victim of pregnancy discrimination. It is important to engage the appropriate procedures in the workplace in order to ensure that you are giving yourself the best chance at a successful outcome. It is important to raise any issues with your line manager and record these. You should not enter any meetings by yourself, it is strongly recommended that you bring a witness with you. It is also important to remember that there is a six-month limit to taking cases, if you feel you are being discriminated against, it is important to seek assistance.’
In relation to how discrimination can manifest, he gives some examples of what can happen in workplaces, ‘Common examples of discrimination that we see would include, being assigned unrealistic tasks, unpopular or inconvenient rostering of hours and heavy lifting. It would be common to see the discrimination start around the announcement stage of the pregnancy, but could remain dormant until the latter stages of pregnancy.’
On what to do if you think you are being discriminated against he goes on to say, ‘you can seek assistance from your shop steward or local union office. Even if you are not in a union, they would have relevant advice and information for you. The current waiting times for a case to be heard by the Workplace Relations Commission has been reduced down to approximately five months, however, depending on a number of factors, we do see a number of cases settled before they reach the Workplace Relations Commission.’
If you think that you are the victim of pregnancy discrimination in your workplace, you can find more information on MANDATE on their website: mandate.ie there is also information available with the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission on ihrec.ie. If you need to find a solicitor for further advice, there is a search function available on the Law Society website.
Have you experienced pregnancy discrimination in the workplace? Share your story in the comments section below.