Pregnant women and new mothers face "growing" discrimination in workplaces, including having shifts cut and being forced on to zero-hours contracts, according to a new report.
The findings from Citizens Advice, published on Monday, show there was a 25% rise in people seeking advice about pregnancy and maternity discrimination in the workplace between April 2015 and March 2016. The charity says almost 2,000 people sought advice on the topics, up from just over 1,500 in the previous 12 months.
Evidence of pregnant women and new mothers who have had their working hours cut, being put on zero-hour contracts, or being dismissed illegally for their jobs was also found, the charity said.
In one incident, Citizens Advice said a woman contacted her employer to find out why she hadn't received any maternity pay.
She was then told they had ended her contract while she was on maternity leave. Another pregnant woman claimed she was told her hours were being halved because of a lack of work, while at the same time her boss was hiring new employees.
Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy said pregnant women should be supported at work, not made to "fear for their livelihood".
"It is concerning that more and more new and expectant mums are experiencing discrimination issues at work," Guy said. "People with a baby on the way will have a lot on their minds already. The last thing they need is a threat to their income or job security. All employers should respect and uphold the rights of staff who are new parents or expecting a baby."
In March, a study by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (ECHR) found that over three quarters of mothers reported a negative or possibly discriminatory experience at work during their pregnancy, maternity leave, or on their return to work.
One in six mothers reported a negative impact on their health or stress levels because of poor treatment at work, and one in nine pregnant women and new mothers lose their job, the study found.
In response to Citizens Advice's report, Kate Green MP, Labour's Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, criticised the government and stressed it must urgently outline its strategy to tackling discrimination against pregnant women and new mothers in the workplace.
"The 25 per cent increase in the number of people asking for advice on pregnancy and maternity issues in the past year is cause for alarm," Green said in a statement. "Under this Tory government it now costs up to £1200 to bring a maternity discrimination claim to an employment tribunal which has seen fewer than one per cent of women experiencing maternity discrimination now bringing forward a claim."
She added: "The government has known for some time that maternity discrimination is on the increase, yet has failed to put measures in place to protect mothers in the workplace."