Lanark and Hamilton East MP Angela Crawley has called on the UK government to abolish employment tribunal fees as part of an effort to tackle maternity discrimination.
The call follows the launch of an inquiry into pregnancy and maternity discrimination by the House of Commons’ Women and Equalities Committee, which heard evidence from some of the UK’s major trade unions including the Trades Union Congress, Unite and the Fire Brigade Union.
In December 2015, a report for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) found that unlawful maternity and paternity discrimination is now more common in UK workplaces than ever before, with as many as 54,000 pregnant women and new mothers – one in nine – forced out of their job each year.
In July 2013, the UK government introduced employment tribunal fees of up to £1200, which acts as a significant barrier to justice for women who are facing maternity discrimination but cannot now afford to take a rogue employer to a tribunal.
The Scottish Government has committed to scrapping employment tribunal fees in Scotland when the powers to do so are devolved to the Scottish Parliament in April 2017.
Commenting Angela said:
“The UK government’s decision to introduce huge fees for employment tribunals has acted as a major barrier to justice for women facing discrimination, and a charter for rogue employers.
“There has been a massive drop in employment tribunal claims in the three years since the fees were introduced, while at the same time the UK government’s own reports reveal that levels of unlawful pregnancy and maternity discrimination have grown to a record high.
“Evidence from the Law Society of Scotland, Citizens Advice Scotland, trade unions and other experts has shown that workers with genuine cases are being prevented from lodging claims and seeking redress simply because of their inability to pay these fees. The impact on women is particularly damaging, and as a result unlawful employment practices are going undeterred and unpunished.
“The Scottish Government is committed to equality and we have rightly pledged to scrap these unfair charges in Scotland as soon as the powers to do so are devolved in April 2017, but women in Scotland should not have to wait another year to access justice, and women across the rest of the UK should not have to face this barrier indefinitely.
“The UK government should now listen to the experts, look at the evidence in their own reports, and follow Scotland’s example by abolishing employment tribunal fees now.”