Today’s Victoria Derbyshire programme on BBC News discusses maternity discrimination.

It highlights that when employers settle cases, there is typically a gagging clause that prevents the employee from talking about the settlement, so cases get under-reported.

This meets with our experience. We have rarely seen a settlement agreement for maternity discrimination, or any kind of discrimination, that didn’t contain a confidentiality clause.

This can prevent the employee from discussing

  • the details of the dispute
  • the negotiations
  • the fact of settlement
  • the terms of the settlement; or
  • the amount of the settlement

Or it may extend to all of the above.

The programme found that around one in nine of mothers had been dismissed or treated so badly they felt they had to leave their job.  We think that only a small proportion of these will have brought a maternity discrimination claim. New mothers often tell us that they have their too hands full with the new baby to deal with legal claims.

The programme spoke to Catherine McClennan, who won a maternity discrimination employment tribunal case in 2015 against her employer, the TUC, the union, receiving an award of £21,000 in compensation.

Among her claims was that she was left off the company’s telephone list when she went on maternity leave.

The Women and Equalities Committee recommends a “dismissal ban” for pregnant women and new mothers. At the moment, they can be dismissed as long as the reason is not linked to the fact of pregnancy or maternity absence or a linked reason.

The government says it is determined to tackle pregnancy and maternity discrimination. However we are not aware of specific plans and many feel that Theresa May has her hands full with Brexit.

By Zahid Reza

Image used under CC courtesy of Rob Chandler