Junior Ministers, Megan Fearon and Alastair Ross today attended an Equality Commission conference to mark 40 years of sex discrimination law in Northern Ireland.

At the event, the Equality Commission launched the findings of its investigation into the employment experiences of pregnant women and new mothers, as well as its good practice guidance to help those employing pregnant women and mothers.

Addressing the conference, Junior Minister, Megan Fearon said: “I very much welcome the Equality Commission’s investigation. While it is encouraging many women are content with the support received from employers, a significant number of pregnant women and new mothers continue to face barriers to equality of opportunity in the workplace.

“40 years on there is still work to be done. Progress has been made but there are still hurdles and obstacles to remove. It is not acceptable in 2016 that many pregnant women and working mothers experience negative or potentially discriminatory treatment at work.

“Women contribute greatly to society and ensuring each and every one of us is treated equally in the workplace will benefit us all. Government must put the circumstances and conditions in place to advance gender equality. For our part, we will work with all interested parties, including the Equality Commission, to ensure equality for all in our society becomes the norm.”

Junior Minister, Alastair Ross said: “We have come a long way since sex discrimination law was introduced in Northern Ireland. It is now incredible to think that it was once possible to sack a woman just because she was pregnant.
“40 years on, women are working in a broad range of occupations and there is no doubt that the introduction of the Sex Discrimination Order, the Equal Opportunities Commission, and its successor the Equality Commission, has changed the outcomes for women for the better.

“In our Programme for Government, the Northern Ireland Executive is committed to seeing more people working in better jobs, create a more equal society and build a Northern Ireland which prospers through a strong economy. Essential to achieving our vision is for everyone to have the opportunity to reach their full potential regardless of gender. We will build on the significant progress made over the past 40 years and continue to work with our partners in the voluntary and community sector to create a better, equal and prosperous Northern Ireland.”

Published: Wednesday, 30 November 2016