RCM and Maternity Action call for greater redundancy protection for pregnant women and new mothers

By Gemma Murphy on 03 March 2021 Pregnancy RCM

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM), alongside the charity Maternity Action, has called on the Government to enshrine redundancy protection for pregnant women and new mothers in law at the TUC Women’s Conference.  Research in 2016 by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) revealed that approximately 1 in 9 mothers (11%) were dismissed, made compulsorily redundant, or treated so poorly they felt they had to leave their jobs.

The RCM says this equates to as many as 54,000 women across the UK being forced out of their jobs every year just because they are pregnant.

Commenting, Employment Relations Advisor for the RCM Alice Sorby said:

“Being pregnant and then caring for a new baby can be challenging enough without the worry and stress of redundancy or the potential loss of your job. Due to Government inaction, pregnant women and new mothers are in more danger than ever before. COVID-19 has triggered an economic downturn and a wave of unlawful discrimination and unfair redundancies are currently happening and predictions say this is set to worsen. Four years ago, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission made a series of recommendations to tackle this and four years later the UK Government has still not acted on a single one.”

The motion at TUC Women’s Conference today calls on the TUC to support the RCM, Maternity Action and other trade unions in calling for the Government to adopt the Pregnancy & Maternity (Redundancy Protection) Bill introduced in 2019 by Maria Miller MP.

Miller’s Bill would see the current, inadequate law replaced with a new framework of protection for pregnant women and new mothers including preventing employers from making a woman redundant from the time she notifies them she is pregnant until six months after the end of her maternity leave, including those who experience stillbirth or miscarriage.

Commenting, Ros Bragg Director at Maternity Action said:

"Existing laws on maternity and redundancy fail to protect pregnant women and new mothers from unfair selection for redundancy. Breaches of the 'Regulation 10' protections during maternity leave are notoriously difficult to prove and discrimination claims face similar problems. With legal costs often in excess of £10,000, few women have the financial or emotional resources to pursue a claim against unfair redundancy.

The Government's proposal to extend the period covered by the existing redundancy provisions is a wholly unsatisfactory response to the difficulties facing pregnant women and new mothers.  As Maria Miller MP has said, extending the period covered by these provisions would simply entrench a system that we know does not work. The Women and Equalities Committee has called for urgent action on this issue.  We urge the Government to adopt Mrs Miller's bill as their own and speed this into law."

The RCM will also participate in key debates at the conference over the next three days with speeches on the unequal impact of COVID-19 on pregnant women and ending gender-based violence.



Notes to Editors:

  1. The RCM’s second motion is around funding to better midwives and maternity support workers who care for disadvantaged women during pregnancy.
  2. TUC Women’s Conference 2021 – Our Future, Our Fight – more details here: https://www.tuc.org.uk/WomensConference2021
  3. Maternity Action – Know your rights during pregnancy at work https://maternityaction.org.uk/your-rights-at-work/


About the RCM

The RCM is the only trade union and professional association dedicated to serving midwifery and the whole midwifery team. We provide workplace advice and support, professional and clinical guidance, and information, and learning opportunities with our broad range of events, conferences and online resources. For more information visit the RCM website at https://www.rcm.org.uk/.

About Maternity Action 

Maternity Action is the UK’s maternity rights charity dedicated to promoting, protecting and enhancing the rights of all pregnant women, new mothers and their families to employment, social security and health care. https://maternityaction.org.uk/