Healthy, flexible and safe workplaces should be prioritised for pregnant workers and new mothers in Scotland to maximise economic growth.
The Scottish Government has pledged to take action to ensure fairer workplaces for women and to tackle discrimination against new and expectant mothers ahead of a report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) later in the spring.
The measures include:
• A new working group to create guidelines for employers to ensure best practice on recruitment, retention and development of pregnant workers;
• Including best practice in managing pregnancy and maternity appropriately within the Scottish Business Pledge;
• Strengthening employer advice to ensure that work environments are safe and healthy for pregnant women and new mothers, including providing employment rights information; and
• Improving public monitoring and reporting of pregnancy and maternity under the Scottish Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED).
Cabinet Secretary for Fair Work, Skills and Training Roseanna Cunningham presented the plan at a breakfast session on the issue organised by the EHRC and Working Families and Family Friendly Working Scotland, hosted by Maclay, Murray and Spens LLP in Edinburgh. The meeting was also attended by Barclays Bank and the Scottish Parliament.
Ms Cunningham said: “Sadly in 2016, negative consequences of being pregnant or a new mother while working remain frustratingly common. This is unacceptable in a modern Scotland and does not sit well in a fair and equitable society.
“A report from the EHRC 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. 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. The latest figures also show a drop of 1.8 percentage points in the gender pay gap over the year, so progress is being made. However we must keep highlighting that motherhood does not detract from a worker’s productivity or value.
“We have set up the Fair Work Convention which will publish its framework for fairer workplaces in the coming weeks. In the meantime, however, if there are opportunities to improve the rights of employees we will take them.”
Sarah Jackson OBE, CEO of Working Families and Chair of the Family Friendly Working Scotland Steering Group added: “Too many women contact our free legal advice service each year because they have been subject to discrimination during pregnancy, maternity or on their return to work. This short changes families and short changes the economy.
“Family Friendly Working Scotland was established to support and promote family friendly workplaces. We therefore welcome today’s announcement by the Scottish Government of new measures to help pregnant women and new mothers in the workplace.
“Employers across Scotland must now positively engage with these measures - to better support the parents they employ through their pregnancy, maternity and paternity leave and their return to work, as well as enabling them to balance their work and caring responsibilities in the longer term.”