New mothers are being forced onto zero-hour contracts or are being made redundant at an alarming rate, according to a new study.
Citizens Advice has recorded a nearly 60% rise in the number of women seeking advice about maternity leave issues this year, with just over 3,300 coming to the charity compared to 2,099 last year.
The introduction of fees for employment tribunals has combined with the rise of zero-hours contracts, agency work and multiple part-time jobs to make employees more vulnerable to the mistreatment of maternity rights – The Guardian reports.
While employment and sexual discrimination legislation offers protection for pregnant women, responsibility for enforcing such employment rights is spread across a wide range of agencies, from HMRC to the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, said Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice.
“This confusing landscape means some bad bosses are getting away with treating their employees unfairly,” Guy said. “There is an opportunity for the government to consider bringing together the expertise of all current labour market enforcement functions into one well-resourced, effective body to investigate bad practice.”
Citizens Advice said the most common issue it dealt with in relation to maternity leave was being made redundant followed by a reduction in hours, including being moved to a zero-hours contract and having a role changed upon return to work.
The research by Citizens Advice supports the findings of a report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission into maternity discrimination published last year.
The study estimated that around 54,000 new mothers are losing their jobs across Britain every year.
It also found that 10% of women were discouraged from attending antenatal appointments by their employers, putting the health of mother and baby at risk.