Discrimination Against Pregnant Women in the Workplace

Millie Parkes (Student)

It has become a well-known fact that the United Kingdom is suffering hardship in many sectors, but the threat of job-loss and redundancy for pregnant and women with young children is widely increasing.

Joeli Brearley, founder of the charity Pregnant Then Screwed, has recently said that the pandemic has caused a surge of discrimination against pregnant women and mothers at work.

The Law

The main law which should prevent such discrimination is The Equality Act 2010.

For pregnant women specifically, the Act states that it is unlawful to be discriminated against for being pregnant or suffering a pregnancy-related illness. If you are it may mean that you can take your employer to a tribunal.

Protection from Discrimination as a Pregnant Woman (and After!)

From the time that you become pregnant until when your maternity leave ends (if eligible) or two weeks after you child was born (if not eligible), there is a protection period. This protection period protects you against discrimination within the workplace.

Even after giving birth and returning to work, if you have been treated unfavourably after this, you could still be protected against discrimination because of your sex.

Similarly, it is unlawful to discriminate against you for:

  • Being on maternity leave
  • Having been on maternity leave
  • Trying to take maternity leave, which you are entitled to.

Reversing the Progress During the Pandemic

Brearley highlighted that 15% of mothers and pregnant women (in a survey of 20,000 mothers) have been made redundant or expected to be, during the pandemic. This is said to be reversing the progress of an increase in maternal employment by 9% in the last 20 years.

Brearley’s charity ‘Pregnant Then Screwed’ also emphasised that prior to the pandemic, they would provide legal advice to around 3,000 women per year, who were experiencing pregnancy and maternity discrimination in the workplace. Since the pandemic, they have provided legal advice to over 32,000 women – an almost 1000% increase.

The Women’s Budget Group also explains their findings for women to have been discriminated against more-so throughout the pandemic compared to their spouses, by finding that ‘ Of those furloughed, mothers were more likely to be put on furlough to look after their children (27%) than fathers (23%) and One in five mothers were made redundant or lost hours because of caring responsibilities, compared to 13% of fathers.

Traditional stereotyping

Brearley added that ‘there are deeply entrenched gender stereotypes that mean women blame themselves when they get pregnant and get pushed out of their jobs.’ This basic sexism is all too clear according to the British Social Attitudes Survey, which highlighted that one in five people think women with child under school age should stay at home.

However, it is hoped that  the pandemic has brought some positive changes to families, with some fathers being able to spend more time caring for their children than before March 2020. The Fawcett Society have stated that if this became the norm, it could reduce the ‘motherhood pay penalty’ and help aid maternal and pregnancy employment within the workplace.

At Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic (SULAC) we offer free legal advice on Equality and Discrimination related matters. If you wish to book an appointment with us call 01782 294 800 or alternatively email SULAC@staffs.ac.uk










Possession suspensions ‘put neighbours at risk’

Lucy Cooper (Student)

The pandemic has been very hard for many people, some of whom have lost their jobs, aren’t receiving the same income as they used to or are simply struggling with their mental health. To help people who may not be able to afford their rent the government put into place an eviction ban meaning that people could not be evicted, during the pandemic. 

Whilst this has clearly helped some people, some law firms have highlighted the problem this has caused for people who are suffering with anti-social behaviour from their neighbours. Housing Associations have reported that due to the ban on possession action they have not been able to take any action against tenants who were being anti-social, which was having a huge impact on the neighbours and other tenants. One property owner explained that he had experienced significant antisocial behaviour from a neighbour and he has now lost two tenants because of this.  

The stay on possession proceedings was lifted in September of last year, meaning that many solicitors saw the opportunity to sort the anti-social behaviour out and began to use what they called the ‘last resort’ to evict the tenants after giving them multiple warnings and chances to change their actions. 

Solicitors have stressed their concerns about the rise in anti-social behaviour during lockdown and what impact it is having on other people, in a situation which is already mentally challenging. It can have a catastrophic effect on the people who have to endure these issues ever day on top of trying to cope with a global pandemic, some people have been spat on by neighbours, during the pandemic, causing them to have a mental breakdown. 

Solicitors have stressed that there needs to be focus on this by the government as anti-social tenants can seriously impact their local community.

What can people do in the meantime? 

If you are someone who is experiencing anti-social behaviour it is initially best to try and speak to the neighbour (provided it is safe to do so). If this does not help, then keep a diary of all the issues that you have encountered so that if court proceedings are necessary you will be able to show a clearly logged diary of what has happened. 

The next step would be report the problem to the council, it may then be possible for the council or the police to meet with the person who is causing the problem and speak to them and help them come to an agreement about how they should change their behaviour. This agreement can then be put into writing. This is known as an acceptable behaviour contract.

Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic Offers free legal advice on all housing issues. If you would like an appointment please call 01782 294458 or emails SULAC@staffs.ac.uk


Is Staying Home Protecting Everyone?

Shivam Kaushik (Student)

The government has implemented measures to reduce the spread of Covid-19 since March 2020. Since then, there have been lockdowns, closures of non-essential businesses and a very strong message from government to remain at home unless absolutely essential. The advertisement for this is “Stay Home, Stay Safe, Save Lives” and this message is broadcast everywhere on government pages, posters and on several official media platforms. During such  time, having a safe place to call home is critical especially when being at home is more important and one is home more now than ever.

Support services are struggling to provide help and resources to those struggling in their households. The restrictions on leaving home result in further barriers in seeking help and reporting any abuse. Gender based violence (“GBV”)has increased. The UN defines gender based violence as as harmful acts directed at an individual based on their gender. There has been a sharp rise in the prevalence of such abuse in recent times and has been compounded further by lockdown measures. GBV mainly relates to interpersonal violence, domestic abuse, sexual violence and other forms of abuse. In the UK, 1 in 4 women experience domestic abuse and 1 in 5 will experience sexual assault in her lifetime. GBV does not because of lockdown, nor does it stem from the stress, hardship and economic difficulties which arise from the existence of a pandemic, however, the pandemic and lockdown measures have increased the risk factors for GBV such as substance abuse, being unable to support one’s family, crowding and female isolation.

Services supporting victims of gender-based violence are reporting an unprecedented increase in demand for support and assistance. Domestic abuse charity, Refuge, have reported a 700% increase in contact compared to pre-lockdown levels. Similarly, the Respect phone line has reported a rise of 125% in web traffic and a 16.6% increase in number of calls received. Even during stable periods, GBV is under-reported in the UK. The Home Office found that 83% of victims do not report their experiences to the police. The reporting of such experiences will be further decreased during the pandemic.

 These are very concerning statistics that highlight the scale and urgency of these issues and their impact on the most vulnerable members of society. The added difficulty in reporting abuse and seeking assistance during lockdown is leading to many abusers escaping accountability and punishment. More importantly, it has further eroded the ability for victims and survivors to seek immediate protection for themselves and their children. Access to justice is one of the biggest issues faced by victims of GBV and the government measures have only compounded such difficulties. The continuation of such measures will only worsen the impact the pandemic has had on GBV victims and survivors. The government measures as a result of the pandemic have raised the question whether staying home is truly saving lives and at what cost?

If you have experienced any of these issues and require more advice at Staffordshire Legal Advice Clinic (SULAC) we offer free legal advice. Students are supervised by a qualified solicitor, if you wish to book an appointment with us, then please either call us on 01782 294800 or email us at SULAC@staffs.ac.uk. 


Gender Equality in the Workplace

Charmaine Watkins (Student)  

The Law 

In 2010, the Equality Act was introduced to legally protect people from being discriminated against in the workplace as well as in the wider society. This Act replaced the previous Laws on Anti-discrimination with one Act. In the UK, there are 9 protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010. These are: 

  • Race and Ethnicity
  • Disability 
  • Religion or belief
  • Age 
  • Sexual orientation 
  • Sex
  • Gender reassignment
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Marriage and civil partnership

The Act provides a framework to protect against direct and indirect discrimination as a result of one of these characteristics. 

Direct discrimination is when someone is treated unfairly because of one of the characteristics, whereas indirect discrimination happens when there are rules or arrangements that apply to a group of employee causing them a disadvantage because of one of the characteristics. 

The impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic  

The Fawcett Society has indicated that Covid-19 has had a ‘devastating’ impact on gender equality in the workplace.

The Society said that women are more likely to lose work or be burdened with childcare during the crisis then men, and during the pandemic out of 8400 people surveyed, a third of working women reported a loss of work or hours. 

The Fawcett society stated that there is a danger that the gender pay gap (the average difference in pay between men and women) may widen as a result. This has been described as a coronavirus crossroads which may impact the progress of workplace equality for years. 

The UK government has said they are “committed to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to progress in the workplace”.

However, it is hoped that the pandemic could have brought some positive changes. Some fathers have said that they now spend twice as much time caring for their children then before March 2020. The Fawcett Society have stated that if this became the norm, it could reduce the “motherhood pay penalty” and curb the gender pay gap. 

At Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic (SULAC) we offer free legal advice on Equality and Discrimination related matters. If you wish to book an appointment with us call 01782 294 800 or alternatively email SULAC@staffs.ac.uk 


Wills and Covid

Charmaine Watkins (Student) 

For a Will to be valid there are three main requirements, as set out in the Wills Act 1937, these are: 

  • It must be in writing
  • Signed by the testator, who is over 18
  • Witnessed by two witnesses, who are over 18, in the presence of the testator

Creating a will is important for protecting your assets including property, money and sentimental objects. A will is a legal document that ensures your wishes are fulfilled.  

However, Covid changed this. In September 2020 a statutory instrument was introduced to allow for wills to be witnessed virtually. This allows the will to be sent to the various parties and witnessed using a virtual platform such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams. This allows for wills to be executed even during lockdown. 

However, according to the government guidance on video-witnessed wills,virtual witnessing should be the last resort and people should attempt to arrange for physical witnessing of wills where it is safe to do so. 

A spokesman from the ministry of justice has stated; ‘We know the pandemic has made it more difficult to make a will. That’s why we are changing the law to ensure video-witnessed wills are legally recognised. These changes will give peace of mind to many that their last wishes can still be recorded while maintaining all the existing safeguards against fraud or disputes.’ 

Simon Davis the Law society president has welcomed this decision however has said that solicitors will need the correct training to ensure this is done correctly. And that in the long term, wider reforms for the wills Act will be needed to bring it into the 21st century.  

There has however, been more recent criticism with this reform, probate specialists have called it ‘pretty unattractive’ as the remote system can cause delays because the will has to be physically signed by three people, the testator and the two witnesses, who can be all over the country, who will need the will to be posted to each member to be signed which will cause a delay between each signature.  

She also added that there are issues with ensuring the testator has capacity and is not acting under undue influence as well as making sure the client is correctly identified.  

At Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic (SULAC) we offer free legal advice on probate matters (although we do not draft wills). If you wish to book an appointment call us on 01782 294 800 or alternately email us at SULAC@staffs.ac.uk 


Lasting Power of Attorney & the Ability to Plan Ahead

Harry Gabell (Student)

A Lasting power of attorney (LPA)  is something which you can (and perhaps ought to) have set up before your health deteriorates An LPA is a legal document whereby a trusted friend or family member is given the powers to make some decisions on your behalf, if you no longer have the mental capacity to make these decisions by yourself. Generally speaking, LPA’s are usually considered by the elderly, but the option is available to anybody over the age of 18.

What does an LPA do exactly?

The LPA formalises a relationship between a ‘donor’, who creates the power, and the ‘attorney’, who may use the power if the donor loses mental capacity. To have capacity, a person must be able to understand the information they need to make a decision, evaluate it, and then communicate their intentions. So, while you still have mental capacity, you can appoint somebody to make decisions on your behalf in two areas, should you ever lose it. These are:

  • Health and welfare
  • Property and finance

Your attorney can cover just one of these areas, or both, but they must be arranged using different forms. Also, by creating these arrangements, it does not mean that the donor is giving up any control. The powers should only be used at the point of the loss of mental capacity.

Health and welfare power of attorneys concern medical treatment and other interactions with healthcare staff. Health and welfare powers could also cover more serious medical decisions, but these kinds of decisions could already be made by the donor in advance using a ‘living will’.

Property and finance powers cover money, tax, bills, accounts, property, pensions and benefits, among other things. They could also deal with situations where there is a need to pay for equipment or supplies, for example a wheelchair, or new clothes. Wherever possible, the donor’s property and finance should be kept separate from the attorney’s, although some couples using shared bank accounts won’t be able to do this. Unlike health and welfare powers, property and finance powers may be used before the loss of mental capacity.

What does an LPA cost?

In England and Wales, setting up an LPA carries a cost of £82 (for both health and welfare and property and finance, that would be £164). This is the fee for the compulsory registration of the power of attorney. If you instruct solicitors to help you get the power there will be further fees..

Arranging an LPA comes strongly recommended from both a financial and a personal protection standpoint. Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic (SULAC) offers free legal advice and can advise on matters of lasting powers of attorney arrangements (although we do not draft the applications). SULAC is offering appointments online, through Microsoft Teams due to COVID – 19. For additional information, or to book an appointment please call on 01782 294800 or email at SULAC@staffs.ac.uk




Changes to Divorce Law

Emma Peake (Student)

The law on divorce us due to undergo a radical change. The changes are likely to come in effect in the Autumn of 2021 or early 2022.

Under the current law you must prove that your marriage has broken down irretrievably. You show this you must prove one of the five grounds: 

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour. This can include:
    • Physical violence,
    • Verbal abuse- such as insults and/or threats,
    • Drunkenness and/or drug-taking,  
    • Refusing to pay towards shared living expenses. 
  • Desertion- your husband or wife has left you for at least two years since separation 
  • You have been separated for at least two years and the opposite spouse agrees to the divorce, or
  • You have been separated for five years; the opposite spouse does not need to agree to the divorce.

The  majority of applications rely upon adultery or unreasonable behaviour. The very process of listing allegations can often aggravate the other party and can sometimes mean that negotiations in respect of children and the finances can become very acrimonious.

So what is changing? 

The changes involve the introduction of the concept of “no-fault divorce”. The new procedure will no longer require blame to be put on the other party. The main benefit of this change is to reduce blame and acrimony and allow parties to deal with finances and children in a more constructive manner. 

Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland said, “The bill reform will not come into force upon Royal Ascent because time needs to be followed for careful implementation.” This means that once the bill has been accepted as new law, the law will not be enforced immediately on that date until it is fully satisfied that is has been interpreted correctly.  

What triggered the need for change?  

Practitioners have been suggesting that this would be beneficial for some time. The issue was highlighted in the case of Owens V Owens Their marriage had completely broken down, but none of the grounds for divorce could be fully satisfied, they just simply “fell out of love”.  Mr Owens was able to successfully contest the divorce. The case then went to the Court of Appeal, who agreed with the decision but highlighted the difficulties arising from this case.

What are the changes? 

The new legislation will: 

  • Replace the five facts with a new requirement to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown, 
  • Remove the possibility of contesting the divorce,
  • Introduce an option for a joint application, and
  • Make sure that language is in plain English, for example changing “decree absolute” to final order and “decree nisi” to conditional order. The “petitioner” of the divorce will become the applicant. 

This has been the biggest shake-up for divorce law in fifty years.  The no-blame divorce is more administrative than a court procedure. Baroness Hales said that being able to say that the marriage has simply failed, without holding the other party accountable, could ease some stress. The process will be easier.  

Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic (SULAC) provides free legal advice on all family related matters. We are working remotely during the pandemic and interviews are conducted via Microsoft Teams. If you would like to make an appointment, please contact us on01782 294800 or email us onSULAC@staffs.ac.uk 




What is the future for the Human Rights Act?

Charmaine Watkins (Student)

In October 2020, the Government released a statement proposing that the Human Rights Act would be reviewed and reformed, if necessary. Sir Peter Gross, a retired Court of Appeal judge along with eight other senior lawyers and academics have been announced as being the panel who will be reviewing the current Human Rights Act.  

What is the Human Rights Act? 

The Human Rights Act sets out the fundamental rights and freedoms that everyone in the UK is entitled to. It includes the rights set out in the European Convention of Human Rights and embodies that into domestic UK law. This came into force in 2000. The Act has three main effects: to seek justice in UK courts, for public bodies to respect the rights and for new laws to be compatible with the convention of rights.  

The Lord Chancellor, Robert Bucknall has recently said that is time ‘to take a fresh look at the Human Rights Act, to see how its provisions are operating and consider whether the framework could be improved’. This review will be happening in the summer of 2021. He has said that the government does not have any preconceived ideas and that there are some areas which need to be focused on during the review.  

What will be considered in the review? 

  • The relationship between domestic courts and the European Court of Human Rights
  • The impact that the Human Rights Act has on the relationship between the judiciary, executive and parliament and whether domestic courts are being unduly drawn into areas of policy 
  • The way that the Act impacts outside the territory of the UK 

This announcement also stated that the UK will remain committed to the European Convention on Human Rights as the review is limited to the framework of the Act rather than the Rights themselves.  

This announcement of the review however has come under criticism from other political parties, with members of the Labour party saying “unlike the conservatives, Labour is proud of this country’s leading role in  developing Human Rights following the second world war. There is no need for a review into the rights and freedoms that underpin out democracy and all of us enjoy”.

David Greene, the President of the Law Society has defended this by saying: “the rights enshrined in the Act are core to the UK’s identify as a democratic, fair and just nation. These core values will be front and centre for the panel whose jobs will be to ensure that they are not rolled back or compromised.” 

Despite the criticisms the review will still be taking place in summer 2021, however, until then, the Act will still be functioning in the way it has for the past 20 years.  

At Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic (SULAC) we offer free legal advice on human right related matters. If you wish to book an appointment with us call 01782 294 800 or alternatively email SULAC@staffs.ac.uk    




How will the Courts recover from Covid 19?

Charmaine Watkins (Student)

As a result of Covid-19, courts were forced to change the way that they operate. Many hearings have had to move online but there are still major backlogs; the disruption caused by Covid-19 may have had a long term effect on the way that the courts work. 

HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) have put forward a proposal to ensure that the backlog of cases is dealt with as quickly and as smoothly as possible. However, this has been criticised, with Lord Chief Justice urging HMCTS to be realistic about the funding.  

In October 2020, the number of hearings, judges sitting, and disposals were close to pre-Covid-19 levels, however the pandemic has created more cases, particularly relating to employment and housing repossession. In September 2020, there were over 45 000 outstanding cases in the employment tribunal alone, this was expected to increase when the  Furlough Scheme ends. HMCTS have warned that ‘there is already a significant volume of cases waiting to be listed, so our focus now is on ensuring we process the current caseload as quickly as possible so we can manage the anticipated increase in demand effectively’. To tackle the backlog, hundreds of new staff have been recruited, judicial sitting times have been maximised, courts that have closed due to the pandemic have reopened and an introduction of ‘Nightingale Courts’ has been planned. The cost of the recovery plan is problematic, with many professionals being left to ask, ‘Where is the money coming from?’. The Lord Chief Justice said, whilst giving evidence to the Commons Justice Committee last week, it is ‘absolutely vital’ that courts operate at full pelt [in 2021]. 

The new Nightingale Courts will be temporary courts created in large buildings to allow more cases to be heard by judges in a large safe space. The Government had been told that a minimum of 60 extra court rooms would be needed for Criminal hearings alone, however since this only 10 new court rooms, in 5 Nightingale Courts have been created. James Mulholland QC, chair of the Criminal Bar Association has said ‘It needs to be repeated that buildings outside the court estate with large rooms must be found and opened,’ There has been no indication as of yet about how many Nightingale Courts will be created. 

David Greene, President of the Law Society has said that HMCTS needs to make maximum use of normal court hours and the existing estate before starting to introduce more drastic measures. Lord Barnett of Maldon said ‘My view for next year in all jurisdictions is that rather than the traditional approach to funding… there has to be a realistic assessment in every jurisdiction of the likely expectation of work coming into the system and in addition, there has to be a clear understanding of the additional backlogs we have to clear.’ 

HMCTS faces the undesirable task of clearing the backlog as effectively as possible, however, will nevertheless come under scrutiny about the courtrooms and other public buildings being unclean due to the large number of people visiting  during this time. The courts will be looking at ways to ensure that the backlog is dealt with, with the safety of all at the forefront of their minds.  

At Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic (SULAC) we offer free legal advice on civil related matters. If you wish to book an appointment with us call 01782 294 800 or alternatively email SULAC@staffs.ac.uk   


England’s special housing reforms are welcome, but what about private renters?

Lucy Cooper (Student)

Many people are happy to see that the government intends to improve social housing, however many people are raising the question why private renters should not get the same measures. In a recent white paper, the government have announced that reforms will include checks of the quality of homes and repairs and how the landlord engages with tenants and their handling of complaints.

The current law that is in place is the decent homes standard 2006 (which is the law that will be reformed) currently some of the standards set out that all social homes should have: 

  • an indoor bathroom and toilet, which should be replaced every 30 years
  • Kitchens must have an appropriate amount of workspace 
  • Adequate insulation against external noise
  • Adequate size and layout of common areas in flats.

As stated, the above only applied to social home. The issue still remains that people who privately rent, fewer properties meet the existing standard. Housing benefit is assessed on what is a reasonable amount of rent to pay goes on not the size of the building but as long as the bedrooms are above the minimum habitable size then it doesn’t matter how big the overall size of the property is.  

Sadly, thousands of individuals are still living in poor conditions and don’t know their rights when it comes to the minimum requirements for their home. Many people don’t know that it is a landlord’s requirement to fix these hazards to make sure your home is safe including: 

  • damp and mould 
  • excess cold
  • blocked drains
  • water leaks and blocked toilets
  • roof leaks
  • electrical hazards

It is always good to first reach out to your landlord to see if they can help you with the repairs. However, if you have exhausted all options the final route is to take the landlord to court. The court can order your landlord to carry out repairs, pay compensation and make an unsafe property fit to live in. if you do take your issue to court it is important to be well prepared, ensure that you keep all letter and emails to your landlord, take photos of the disrepair, damage or bad conditions, keep receipts for any items you had to replace and obtain medical reports if your health has suffered.

If you have experienced any of these issues and require more advice at Staffordshire Legal Advice Clinic (SULAC) we offer free legal advice. Students are supervised by a qualified solicitor, if you wish to book an appointment with us, then please either call us on 01782 294800 or email us at SULAC@staffs.ac.uk.