Paying for pregnancy

It is 40 years since the law was changed to protect pregnant women from ill-treatment at work, but as a report from the TUC shows, pregnancy discrimination is not a thing of the past. The report suggests that the attitudes of many employers are still stuck in the 1970s - with sacking, bullying and sidelining of expectant mothers commonplace. The Pregnancy Test: Ending Discrimination at Work for New says that, although the law is on the side of pregnant women, many feel shunned as soon as they share their impending baby news with colleagues.

The charity, Maternity Action formed in 2008 to end inequality and improve the health and well-being of pregnant women, partners and young children from conception through to the child's early years.

Making a difference, the charity's Fifth Anniversary Impact Report, tells the story from the beginning, and celebrates achievements in areas such as challenging pregnancy discrimination, improving breastfeeding rights, and defending migrants' access to essential NHS care.

With a landmark study by the London School of Economics and Essex University concluding that sweeping changes to benefits and taxes have shifted income from the poorer half of households to most of the richer half, Maternity Action's report Valuing families? shows how cuts to maternity benefits since 2010 have removed £1.5 billion per year from the income of pregnant women and new parents.

The report concludes that this is exacerbating high rates of poverty among new families, and contributing to the growth in personal debt. Financial pressures are forcing some women to return to work from maternity leave earlier than they would like, depressing take-up of leave by fathers and partners.  This is entrenching the gender division of caring responsibilities, and slowing progress in reducing the gender pay gap.

Maternity Action's third new publication Accommodating breastfeeding upon return to work: guidance for employers is the product of a Department of Health-funded project. This sets out the business case for accommodating breastfeeding in the workplace - including fewer staff absences, and reduced staff turnover - as well as providing guidance on managing requests from staff, and the practical requirements.