Equality Bill

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Work and Pensions – in the House of Commons at 4:58 pm on 11th May 2009.

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Photo of Patricia Hewitt Patricia Hewitt Labour, Leicester West 4:58 pm, 11th May 2009

My hon. Friend is absolutely right—in fact, I recall getting some sense of the work of that local strategic partnership when I visited her constituency—about the concerted effort that is needed over a long period to address such deep-seated disadvantages, which are transmitted intergenerationally within extended families in a neighbourhood.

I want to raise two specific, more narrow issues, on which I hope my hon. and learned Friend the Minister will comment when she makes her winding-up speech. The first issue is discrimination against women who are pregnant or on maternity leave. It is truly shocking that 30 years, or whatever it is, since the introduction of paid maternity leave so many women still find themselves discriminated against by their employer when they are pregnant or on maternity leave. That includes utterly crass forms of discrimination, such as the woman who telephones or tells her employer that she is pregnant only to be told, practically in the next breath, that she has lost her job. The alliance against pregnancy discrimination has expressed concerns that clauses 16 and 17 will not be as strong as the existing law, and it would be helpful if my hon. and learned Friend reassured us on that point.