Maternity leave
The number of new mothers leaving work because of concerns about the safety of their child or pregnancy discrimination has risen to 54,000 in a decade, MPs said REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

Women in UK workplaces should have similar protections to those adopted by Germany in a bid to counter a "shocking" increase in pregnancy discrimination over the past decade, MPs have argued. The Women and Equalities Committee has urged the government to publish "ambitious" and detailed plans over the next two years to address the issue as pregnant women risk being forced out of work.

"The arrival of a new baby puts family finances under extreme pressure yet, despite this, thousands of expectant and new mothers have no choice but to leave their work because of concerns about the safety of their child or pregnancy discrimination," said Conservative MP Maria Miller, the chair of the committee.

"Shockingly this figure has almost doubled in the last decade, now standing at 54,000.

"There are now record numbers of women in work in the UK. The economy will suffer unless employers modernise their workplace practices to ensure effective support and protection for expectant and new mums."

The group of MPs, among other things, recommended reforms to health and safety practices, preventing discriminatory redundancies and an increase in protection for casual, agency and zero-hours workers.

Frances O'Grady, the general secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), urged women to join a trade union.

"Pregnancy discrimination forces tens of thousands of women out of their jobs every year. It is not just confined to a few workplaces, it is happening on an industrial scale," O'Grady said.

"Today's report must lead to action. As well as extending protection for pregnant women and new mums, the government must stop charging women up to £1,200 ($1,570) to take a pregnancy discrimination claim.

"The introduction of tribunal fees has been a gift for Britain's worst bosses and allowed them to get away with mistreating pregnant women and working mums."


Business minister Margot James said: "Discrimination in the workplace is illegal with clear rules and regulations in place which every employer must follow.

"It is completely unacceptable that pregnant women and new mothers are apparently being forced to quit their jobs because of outdated attitudes.

"Tackling this issue is a key priority of mine and this government and I would like to thank the committee for its important work. We will consider its recommendations carefully and respond in due course."