Employment law professionals are reporting increases in maternity and paternity related discrimination claims in the last 12 months, according to research by Direct Line Insurance.
Issues have included women claiming they were dismissed when on maternity leave, men claiming harassment and demotion on their return to work after taking paternity leave and more instances of non-disclosure agreements (‘gagging orders’) being used following pregnancy and maternity related disputes.
Parents are protected from unfair treatment during pregnancy and maternity or paternity leave under the Equality Act 2010.
Under law, by the end of the first 26 weeks of maternity leave (known as Ordinary Maternity Leave), employees have the right to return to their old job on their old terms and conditions.
If taking additional maternity leave, i.e. a second six months, the worker has the right to return to their old job on their existing terms and conditions unless it is “not reasonably practicable”. In such instances they must be offered a suitable alternative job with similar terms and conditions.
Despite these rights, employment law practitioners have revealed levels of discrimination claims relating to maternity and paternity leave are growing.
63% have seen an increase in claims from those made redundant while on maternity leave. 71% reported an increase in disputes where employees’ working hours were reduced after returning from maternity leave.
84% said they have seen an increase in the number of Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) used by employers following pregnancy and maternity-related disputes.
Other pregnancy and maternity related discrimination issues concerned demotion on return to work, disputes over time off for medical appointments while pregnant and disputes over reduction in hours when claimant returned from maternity leave.
Legal professionals are also seeing more claims made by fathers with disputes relating to promotions while the claimant was on paternity leave, unfair dismissal and pay disputes while on paternity leave. Fathers are also claiming employer harassment for taking paternity leave.
Employers and employees alike are being urged to improve their understanding of employment law rights in relation to pregnancy, maternity and paternity to ensure parents have reasonable and accurate expectations as to their rights and that these are adhered to by employers to help reduce the rise of discrimination claims.