A WYRE Forest employment lawyer is encouraging women to stand up for their rights at work when returning from maternity leave.

Associate solicitor Kate Jones has issued the alert saying too many new mothers feel intimidated and daunted about returning to the workplace after up to a year away caring for their babies.

The specialist, who herself has just returned from a second period of maternity leave, said mums must make sure their employers are doing all they can to make their return to work as seamless as possible – and be prepared to challenge if not.

Research by the government and the Equality and Human Rights Commission has found 77 per cent of new and expectant mothers had a least one potentially discriminatory or negative experience at work.

Half of mothers reported a negative impact on their careers, such as being treated with less respect or being given duties at a lower level to their job.

Around a fifth experienced harassment or negative comments about pregnancy or flexible working, with 10 per cent saying their employer discouraged them from going to antenatal appointments.

Mrs Jones, from Kidderminster law firm mfg Solicitors, said: “This research has revealed unacceptable discrimination and shows new mothers have to be ready to tackle potential problems head on at work.

“It’s natural to feel nervous about going back to work after a long absence and worry about any changes.

“Having just returned myself I know exactly how people can feel. I have had a hugely positive experience but some aren’t so lucky and should be aware of their legal entitlements which aren’t always clear.

“For example, new mums can go back in for up to 10 days, called keep in touch days, spread at any point throughout their leave without losing statutory maternity pay.

“Also, and people often shy away from asking, but any employee is legally entitled to request reduced or flexible working hours. That doesn’t mean any boss has to agree, but they have to prove the request has been considered as part of an employer’s legal responsibility.”

If things go wrong, Ms Jones said the first course of action is to discuss the issue with a line manager.

“If someone returns from maternity leave and finds themselves in a difficult situation, they are entitled to a grievance meeting. The far end of the scale is an employment tribunal. This is costly, so a watertight case and expert advice from the start is crucial.”

For advice and support on maternity rights, people can contact Kate Jones on 0845 55 55 321 or email kate.jones@mfgsolicitors.com