Should a woman have it rough because she’s up the duff?

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This year, my Halloween costume was a high vis vest. Sounds pretty lame but I was surrounded by 150 women dressed as mummies – the walking dead kind – so they definitely made up for it.

I was part organiser, part attendee of the Newcastle March of the Mummies – a demonstration taking place simultaneously in six cities around the UK to improve the situation for women like me, who believe they can have a family and a career.

Every year, 54,000 women in the UK lose their jobs just because they’re pregnant. A further 390,000 are discriminated against at work. I’m lucky as I work here, but having just dipped my toe into the world of motherhood for the past eight months, I know my positive working situation is rare. For my friends though, it’s de-press-ing.

The trend is worsening – maternal dismissal and discrimination numbers have doubled in the last 10 years.

That’s why Pregnant Then Screwed instigated the marches, asking government to make five legislative demands:
1. Increase the time limit to raise a tribunal claim from 3 months to (at least) 6 months
2. Companies to report how many flexible working requests are made and granted
3. Give fathers 6 weeks non-transferable paternity leave paid at 90% of salary
4. Give the self-employed statutory shared parental pay
5. Subsidise childcare from 6 months old, rather than 3 years

Point 4 hasn’t escaped me – my partner is self-employed and I returned to work 7 months in, so we couldn’t share a thing. It’s ironic that the trends in self-employment are hailed among the defining characteristics of the UK’s recent economic recovery. Yet, they don’t get access to statutory shared parental pay. Baffling.

The coverage we’ve had so far is amazing and the issues have already been raised in PMQs and the FT. If anything, this experience has taught me two things: The power of people – six marches across the UK all organised via WhatsApp in our spare time whilst juggling busy lives – jobs, kids, families and just general LIFE. Phil Cole is by far the best placard maker in Newcastle and the surrounding area. Should a women have it rough because she’s up the duff? Nope. Right, I’m off to dismount my political high horse.

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