Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has given his first support for new legislation proposed by Labor MP Dan Jarvis to stop “grotesque discrimination” against parents.
Business Minister Kwasi Kwarteng has initially backed proposals to strengthen employment rights for pregnant women and workers returning from parental leave by extending the period during which they are protected from dismissal.
Ministers are ready to extend job protections to prevent new mothers and other parents from facing “grotesque discrimination” and losing their jobs for having children.
Currently, mothers are protected from layoffs only during maternity leave.
However, research by the Equality and Human Rights Commission found that 54,000 women each year feel forced to lose their jobs because of pregnancy or maternity discrimination.
Senior Labor MP Dan Jarvis wants to amend the law to extend job protections to cover the period during pregnancy and six months after mothers return to work, to prevent them being the first to be cut.
The Barnsley Central MP wants to extend protections to parents on joint parental leave and those on adoption leave.
A government source said I Mr Kwarteng endorses this in principle following meetings between his department and Mr Jarvis.
The bill is also believed to have bipartisan support among MPs.
The Government proposed similar reforms in July 2019, but these were scrapped when Boris Johnson dropped an expected employment bill from the Queen’s speech in May.
Mr Jarvis said his new Protection Against Layoff (Maternity and Family Leave) Act was “a step to provide working families with security and dignity in the workplace”.
He said: “No one should be penalized for having a family, but pregnant women and young mothers face a grotesque level of discrimination in the workplace.
“This law will help address the appalling injustices they face.
“From the exorbitant cost of childcare to the difficulty of finding flexible work hours, balancing family and work is hard enough.
“The last thing expectant and new parents need is to be shoved out the door.”
Mr Jarvis introduced the legislation on Tuesday after coming second in the vote for Private Members’ bills, allowing MPs to put forward their own legislation.
Second place means Mr Jarvis will most likely get the parliamentary time required to get the bill through Parliament, so long as he receives the government’s stated support.
A study commissioned by the Department for Enterprise, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) in 2019 found that one in nine women was fired or fired when returning to work after having a child, or treated so poorly that she felt compelled to be laid off from her job.