Employees Gagged in Maternity Discrimination Cases

As MP Maria Miller calls for further protections for pregnant women, research reveals a rise in employment disputes for new parents.

Employers are increasingly utilising ‘gagging orders’ when settling pregnancy- and maternity-related discrimination claims, according to recent research.

More than four in five (84%) employment law experts said they have seen an increase in the number of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) used by employers following pregnancy- and maternity-related disputes in the past 12 months.

The research, which surveyed 104 employment law practitioners in March 2019, also found that more than two-thirds (71%) reported an increase in disputes where employees’ working hours were reduced when they returned from maternity leave.

It also found that unfair dismissal cases had risen, with 70% saying they had witnessed an increase in women claiming they were fired while on maternity leave. Additionally, 63% had seen a rise in claims from those made redundant while on maternity leave and 64% where women were demoted on returning to work.

The law states those returning to work after ordinary maternity leave (the first 26 weeks of maternity leave) have the right to return to their old job on their old terms and conditions. If a parent takes additional maternity leave (a second six months of leave) they have the right to return to their old job on their existing terms and conditions unless it is ‘not reasonably practicable’, in which case they must be offered a suitable alternative job with similar terms and conditions.

This research coincides with Conservative MP Maria Miller introducing a bill for greater job protection for mothers and pregnant women. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) launched a consultation in March on extending protection from redundancy for working mothers to six months after they return to work.

The research found that fathers are also facing ill treatment. Sixty-one per cent of employment law professionals said they have seen an increase in disputes related to promotions while the claimant was on paternity leave. Legal experts have also seen an increase in men claiming unfair dismissal (59%) and pay disputes (58%) while on paternity leave.

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