BASINGSTOKE MP Maria Miller is demanding for urgent action to protect pregnant women after a "shocking" increase in workplace discrimination during the past decade.

Mrs Miller, who is chair of The Women and Equalities Committee, wants women in the UK to have protections similar to those in Germany, and has called on the Government to publish an ambitious, detailed plan within the next two years, or risk a further rise in pregnant women being forced out of their work.

Recommendations include changes to health and safety practices, preventing discriminatory redundancies and an increase in protection for casual, agency and zero-hours workers.

Mrs Miller said: "The arrival of a new baby puts family finances under extreme pressure yet, despite this, thousands of expectant and new mothers have no choice but to leave their work because of concerns about the safety of their child or pregnancy discrimination. Shockingly this figure has almost doubled in the last decade, now standing at 54,000.

"There are now record numbers of women in work in the UK. The economy will suffer unless employers modernise their workplace practices to ensure effective support and protection for expectant and new mums.

"The Government’s approach has lacked urgency and bite. It needs to set out a detailed plan outlining the specific actions it will take to tackle this unacceptable level of discrimination. This work must be underpinned by concrete targets and changes to laws and protections to increase compliance by employers to improve women’s lives."

Research carried out by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) revealed that pregnant women and mothers now face more discrimination at work than they did a decade ago.

A total of 11 per cent of women reported being either dismissed, made compulsorily redundant when others in their workplace were not, or treated so poorly they felt they had to leave their job.

The committee’s report urges the Government to change the law to give new and expectant mothers additional protection from redundancy. It recommends implementation of a system similar to that used in Germany under which such women can be made redundant only in specified circumstances.

Mr Miller added: "It is difficult to accept the EHRC and Government’s characterisation of this as merely about enforcement and we are persuaded by the evidence that additional protections against discriminatory redundancies are needed."