Measures set to help new mothers in the workplace

New maternity measures have been announced by the Scottish Government.
New maternity measures have been announced by the Scottish Government.

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.

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Taylor Wimpey have confirmed directly with local Councillor Nathan Wilson that the organisation retains its commitment to building a park and ride at Shieldmuir Train Station. In response to recent enquiries made by Councillor Wilson, Taylor Wimpey have advised that engagement is taking place with Network Rail over the latter’s approval procedures and that once this process is complete, work will be able to begin on site. The developer has informed the Motherwell Councillor that during the period of investigation undertaken since the commencement of building work was delayed in January 2018, an unrecorded service chamber has been discovered on site. The project cannot move forward until further clarification is provided on the nature of the service chamber and Taylor Wimpey are in the process of commissioning a contractor to assess the situation. The developer’s initial judgement is that this is likely a redundant service. A senior representative of the organisation has also informed Councillor Wilson that a member of the Taylor Wimpey production team will be sent out to inspect the vacant land following a request he made at the beginning of 2019 for maintenance work to be carried out on site should construction of the park and ride remain some time away. Councillor Nathan Wilson said: “Taylor Wimpey have communicated to me directly that the park and ride facility is a project that the organisation remains committed to delivering. “However, it goes without saying that the lengthy delay is still very disappointing and frustrating. “An unrecorded service chamber has been identified on site and progress is unable to be made until this has been investigated. “Taylor Wimpey have relayed to me that an on-site inspection of the vacant land will take place and I hold to the view that maintenance work should be carried out in the short term to improve it’s current condition. “I will continue to engage with the relevant stakeholders and re-inforce to them the importance of the park and ride project locally. Motherwell and Wishaw CAB takes home 40 per cent of the prizes

“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.”