I’m discussing this new initiative to help working mothers on Talk Radio today.
Businesses will be told to do more to help mothers breastfeed their babies at work in a drive to stamp out discrimination against pregnant women and new parents.
The government is drawing up plans to encourage firms to take “a more progressive approach” towards female staff who return to their jobs after having children.
Ministers want employers to provide private spaces for breastfeeding mothers to express and store their milk and to feed their babies at work.
Margot James, the business minister, said: “Pregnancy and maternity related discrimination is unacceptable and unlawful and has no place in today’s society. This is an important issue which I take very seriously.”
Her comments came after government studies suggested one in nine mothers – the equivalent of about 54,000 women a year – are sacked or forced to quit their jobs because they are treated so badly at work.
Similar numbers said they were discouraged from attending antenatal appointments, while one in five mothers said they had experienced harassment or negative comments related to pregnancy from colleagues.
At the same time, a quarter of employers felt it was reasonable to ask women about their plans to have children when interviewing candidates for jobs, research from the Equalities and Human Rights Commission found.
The minister said the government was working on new “nudge techniques” –expected to include information campaigns, videos and new guidelines – to persuade more employers to comply with their obligations to treat young mothers and pregnant women fairly.
“We will continue to make the case for inclusive workplaces, where everyone, mothers as well as fathers, can reach their full potential. This is good news for businesses and the economy as well as individual employees,” she said.
“The government encourages breastfeeding and recommends that employers enable women to breastfeed at work as a matter of best practice,” she said.
Ms James recommended that more firms should “provide a private, healthy and safe environment for nursing mothers to express and store their milk”.
Other steps that the government is planning include:
- A publicity campaign between the government and the equalities watchdog aimed at persuading employers of the economic benefits of retaining the talents and experience of pregnant women and new mothers
- A collective insurance scheme to help small and medium-sized firms with the cost of providing enhanced maternity pay
- Training from Acas, the conciliation service, for line managers in their legal duties to protect pregnant women and new mothers from discrimination
- Easy access to employment advice for women so that they know their rights.