Many small businesses struggle to cope when an employee becomes pregnant. By their very nature small business rely on a few employees to carry out fundamental tasks for the business. In small businesses every individual is vital and any loss of working time often significantly effects profits and cash flow, putting the entire business at risk. It is possible for businesses to seek legal advice on how to meet their duties to pregnant employees in a safe and practical way, assisting with the ongoing success of the business whilst supporting a pregnant employee. Keeping the lines of communication open is of course vital both for adequate assessment of a pregnant employee's needs and also so they feel supported. The nature of pregnancy is such that the needs of the employee may not be very predictable and this certainly gives rise to management challenges even for larger organisations who can easily stretch their resources.
Recent research carried out and published by the EHRC (Equalities and Human Rights Commission) and BIS (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) shows a worrying experience for pregnant women in the workplace. Having concluded that pregnant women are now more likely to suffer discrimination in the work place than they were 10 years ago, the Women and Equalities Select Committee are carrying out an inquiry. The EHRC have recommended the following as action points: leadership for change, improving employer practice, improving access to information and advice, improving health and safety management in the workplace, improving access to justice, and monitoring progress. The inquiry will seek evidence from individuals and businesses and will consider the following:
- The likely effectiveness of the Government’s proposals for action
- How the Government can work with employers to drive behaviour change and improve outcomes for women
- Whether particular groups or types of employers need more support to achieve this
- How to help women and their employers find the information they need
- Reasons for the reported rise in discrimination in the past decade
- The extent to which changes in the labour market in the past decade have affected levels of discrimination
- What improvements could be brought about by better inter-departmental working in Government
- Whether some areas of existing legislation could be implemented more effectively
- Effectiveness of tribunals as a deterrent, and whether this has been affected by the introduction of fees in 2013
- Health and safety
- Whether increased financial support for small business would help to reduce discrimination
- What can be learned from best practice in the UK and elsewhere
Government assistance for small businesses would be greatly appreciated not only by the Directors of those companies but also by co-employees.