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Scottish employers to get new guidelines on pregnancy and maternity rights

Pregnancy

New guidelines will be produced to help Scottish employers manage pregnancy and maternity, and promote “fairer workplaces”, the Scottish Government has announced.01 Mar 2016.

The guidelines will be produced by a new working group set up by the Scottish Government for that purpose, and will include employment rights information and best practice for the recruitment, retention and development of pregnant workers and new mothers, according to cabinet secretary Roseanna Cunningham.

Cunningham, whose remit covers fair work, skills and training, said that the “negative consequences” of being pregnant or a new mother remained “frustratingly common” in Scottish workplaces.

“A report from the [Equality and Human Rights Commission] on these issues will be published in the coming weeks and, as part of the Scottish Government’s commitment to fairer workplaces, we want to tackle these issues head on,” she said at an industry event.

“Discrimination during pregnancy or following birth has the potential to set patterns that persist for the rest of a woman’s working life and we need to ensure it is stopped. Recent female employment figures have been strong, particularly when compared to the rest of Europe, and we are making progress on the ‘5050 by 2020’ pledge, with a number of organisations signing up … However, we must keep highlighting that motherhood does not detract from a worker’s productivity,” she said.

The ‘5050 by 2020’ pledge forms part of the Scottish Government’s ‘One Scotland’ equality strategy, and is a voluntary commitment to gender balance on the boards of Scottish businesses by 2020. The Scottish Government also appointed a Fair Work Convention last year, which is due to publish a practical ‘fair employment and workplace framework’ for Scotland by the end of March.

The latest announcements include the creation of the new working group, and embedding best practice in managing pregnancy and maternity in the workplace into the Scottish Business Pledge. This is another voluntary initiative which Scottish businesses can sign up to, demonstrating their compliance with “the best in modern business practices” including payment of a living wage, committing to prompt payment, not using “exploitative” zero hours contracts and investing in youth and young people.

The Scottish Government has also committed to providing stronger and better employer advice on employment rights and health and safety for pregnant women and new mothers. It will also use the Scottish Public Sector Equality Duty to improve the way in which pregnancy and maternity in public sector workplaces is reported and monitored.

The UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission is due to produce a set of Scotland-specific findings on pregnancy and maternity discrimination later in the spring, following on from the UK-wide report it published last year. The UK-wide report, which was based on the largest research programme of its kind, found that the equivalent of 54,000 women may be forced out of their jobs each year as a result of this kind of discrimination.

“These commitments from the Scottish Government are very encouraging and show the leadership for change that is needed to create a positive workplace that supports pregnant women and women returning from maternity leave,” said Alastair Pringle, the commission’s Scotland director.

“We don’t think it’s difficult to get this right and believe the solution is mostly about communication, not cost. Employers told us that they greatly value and support pregnant women in the workplace, but pregnant women have told us that isn’t how it feels. Clearly there’s a breakdown occurring somewhere along the line,” he said.

Source: Out Law

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