30 April 2014

Maternity Discrimination and Shared Parental Leave – A baby step in the right direction?

There is new concern about a rise in maternity discrimination claims brought by employees against their employers. This has led to the government announcing a £1 million investigation into the impact of maternity discrimination. The investigation is being carried out by the Equality and Human Rights Commission and will focus on employers’ practices towards employees who are pregnant or on maternity leave. The Commission will investigate employee's experiences in the workplace and provide evidence on the extent, causes and effects of pregnancy and maternity discrimination.
Under the Equality Act 2010, it is unlawful to treat a woman unfavourably because of her pregnancy or because of an illness suffered by her as a result of her pregnancy. It is well established in case-law that no comparison is required either with how a man would be treated in an equivalent situation or with how a non-pregnant woman would be treated. It need only be shown that the discrimination is because of the woman’s pregnancy.
In the recent example of  Nixon v Ross Coates Solicitors  the employee requested a move to another office following  gossip relating to her pregnancy. This request was refused by her employer. The Employment Appeal Tribunal found such refusal was unreasonable and amounted to pregnancy related discrimination.
In part, due to this increasing concern about pregnancy related discrimination, the government is introducing shared parental leave from April 2015. Shared parental leave may help challenge stereotypes many women are faced with in the workplace.

Shared parental leave

In April 2015 parents will be able to share parental leave allowing parents to take up to a total of 52 weeks off work after having or adopting a child. This leave can be shared between parents, and mothers can choose to return to work more quickly and give their unused allowance to the fathers.

The idea is that the new system will allow parents to choose a pattern that works for them. The government is hoping that it will encourage fathers to play a more active role in their children’s lives and that it will reduce the burden mother’s face in terms of balancing childcare and employment. Some commentators have said however, that the changes do not go far enough to improve the situation. A concern is that fathers will not exercise their rights or will be put off from exercising their rights by employers. Further, many families will simply not be able to afford the father not working. The wage parents will receive whilst on parental leave will only be at the statutory rate unless employer’s own rules are more generous. Whilst increasingly women are becoming the main breadwinner, for most families men remain the main earner.

There has also been criticism from employers that that new system will be too onerous on small businesses and are worried that employees will abuse the new rights. However, there are safeguards in place to ensure that this does not occur. Employees must indicate to employers how they plan to share their parental leave at least eight weeks in advance. Furthermore, employers will be able to insist that employees take their leave in continuous blocks, although if the employer agrees it can be take in several shorter blocks of time. The employment rights of parents and the burden on employers is something which of course needs to be finely balanced.

Shared parental leave is a positive step in challenging the negative stereotypes of mothers in the workplace and may over time assist in reducing the still too frequent cases of women facing pregnancy related discrimination at work.

If you think you may have suffered discrimination, harassment or victimization at work call Nikita Patel on 0207 254 6205.
Nikita Patel
Dowse & Co Solicitors





27 November 2013


Cuts to legal aid in April 2013 included the ending of Legal Help advice and assistance on employment law. At Dowse & Co. we are committed to maintaining access to tribunals where workers have been denied their rights.

We remain committed to your rights at work Besides a free initial telephone consultation, we now offer the following fixed fees* for advice and assistance which we hope will be affordable for clients:

An unpaid wages (including holiday pay) /unlawful deductions claim: to advise on substantive merits and procedure, and prepare a claim form to be issued by the client - £150 plus VAT.

An unfair dismissal or redundancy claim: to advise on substantive merits and procedure, and prepare a claim form to be issued by the client - £250 plus VAT.

A discrimination claim: to advise on substantive merits and procedure, and prepare a claim form to be issued by the client - £425 plus VAT.

Multiple claims: where a claim includes two or more of the above claims the fixed fee will be 100% of the highest fee and 50% each of the lower fees. For example, a claim including discrimination and unfair dismissal will have a fixed fee of £425 plus £125 = £550 plus VAT.

*NB These fixed fees will not apply where documents to be considered exceed 100 pages, and in those circumstances we provide an individual estimate of costs. 

For any legal work beyond preparing a claim form we will advise about the funding options available in the circumstances, including offering “no win no fee” in suitable cases.

The fixed fees apply from November 2013 until further notice.

10 March 2010

Dowse & Co.
serving the community for over 100 years

It was 1894 when Geo. J Dowse founded the solicitor’s practice that still bears his name in Dalston today.

This photograph shows Mr Dowse, solicitor, who founded our firm Dowse & Co. in 1894.

Those were the days when the public arrived in their thousands to Dalston Junction by train from the former Broad Street station in the City, to see the elephants and acrobats performing at Dalston's circus, the North London Colliseum and Amphitheatre.

Poster of Fossett's Circus

Sir Robert Fossett's circus performed at Dalston's circus in its opening season in 1886. His great grandson still owns and runs a circus today.

Perhaps Mr Dowse advised the art dealer living at 10 Dalston Lane who gave up his Georgian home in 1898 to enable the sumptious new entrance to be built when the circus was converted to the Dalston Theatre of Varieties.

This 1898 architect's drawing shows the original circus entrance of the Dalston Colliseum and the proposed new entrance for the Dalston Theatre which was to be built in front of it at 14 Dalston Lane.

Mr. Dowse may later have advised Hackney's very own international star of the music hall, Marie Lloyd, who thrilled the crowds at the Dalston Theatre of Varieties and who lived locally in Graham Road E8.

Marie Lloyd - Hackney's very own international star of the Victorian music hall.

She had been summoned to the Town Hall by the Burgesses of Hackney to answer allegations of licentious and lewd performances. But her performance before the Burgesses was said to have been such innocence and charm it was ranked to have been one of her finest. A triumphant acquittal!

Dalston Lane at the turn of the century. Opposite Dalston Theatre, which has now been demolished, you can see the buildings where Dowse & Co. now has its offices at 23-25 Dalston Lane.

Mr. Dowse may also have known the Mayor of Hackney, Herbert Morrison, who in 1920 opened the “the greatest cinema in the British Empire" which Dalston Theatre had by then become after fortunes had been spent.

A sketch of Dalston Theatre in 1886 which in 1920 became the cinema later known as the Gaumont

But those were the old days when the Courts were only for the rich and justice seemed to favour the highest bidder. But by 1945, after the heartache of the second World War, Herbert Morrison had become a government Minister working for equality and establishing the welfare state. The Legal Aid Act of 1949 established the principle of equal access to justice for all regardless of wealth. People of “small or moderate means”, of which by then Dalston had no shortage, were finally entitled to a solicitor to champion their claims and protect them from injustice.

But what would Mr Dowse think of the “Access to Justice” reforms since the 1990’s when even pensioners are disqualified from legal aid because, despite their poverty, they own their own homes? Or of the groaning bureaucracy where completion of a 7 page application to the National Assistance Board in 1949 has been replaced with 27 pages of box ticking for the Legal Services Commission? Or which has disenfranchised millions of people and spawned an industry of “claims farmers” who are allowed to tout for clients’ claims and sell them on to solicitors for a handsome fee?

80% of legal aid solicitors are in small firms. A combination of bureaucratic overload and relentless cuts has meant that over 3,000 independent legal aid firms have disappeared from our high streets in recent years. The latest rationalisations are aimed at cutting the number of legal aid firms still further. This threatens competition in the marketplace, the survival of local professional services and removes clients’ freedom of choice.Clients will have to travel to large “one stop shops” (the Legal Aid Commission's “preferred suppliers”) staffed with armies of unqualified, and badly paid, para-legals.

For over 100 years Dowse & Co. has served its community whether rich or poor. The current legal aid reforms further erode the benchmark of professional advice for the needy and of equal access to justice.