A charity which defends the employment rights of pregnant women and new mothers has been removed from a government advisory board after posting critical tweets.
In recent months, senior Tories, including Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries and her predecessor Oliver Dowden, have struggled to position themselves as champions of free speech, decrying “cancellation culture”.
So it came as a surprise to Maternity Action, the charity said, when it was removed from the group tasked with advising on workplace discrimination after its director voiced her views on social media about the limited scope of advice and lack of progress.
Ros Bragg tweeted: ‘We have an advisory council looking at ‘non-legislative improvements’ to reduce maternity discrimination, which will meet quarterly until March 2023. No action plan. No recommendations for legislative change. After highlighting industry recommendations, she added: “Disappointing.”
The charity told the Observer that officials referenced the tweets when told they would be taken down.
The Business, Enterprise and Industrial Strategy Department [BEIS] did not deny that the decision was based on Bragg’s tweets.
Heather Wakefield, President of Maternity Action, said: “We were surprised by our removal from the Board, the reasons for which were not sufficiently explained to us. BEIS officials were well aware of our criticisms of disappointing board assignments when they invited us to join them last year.
“In July 2019, ministers promised that a task force would develop an action plan on keeping pregnant women and new mothers in employment. We are still waiting for this action plan.
Shadow Labor Minister for Arts and Civil Society, MP Barbara Keeley, said: ‘Rather than shelving a charity because they don’t like the chief executive’s tweets, the Tories should be laser-focused on managing energy bills and the cost of living crisis. .”
It was confirmed in parliament on Tuesday that the charity would not be invited to a second board meeting. He was absent from a 12-member list put forward by Tory MP Paul Scully.
Other members include the Fawcett Society, Working Families and Pregnant Then Screwed, whose founder Joeli Brearley said she would raise the issue with BEIS at the next meeting this month.
A BEIS spokesperson pointed to an earlier statement by Scully, which read: “The purpose of the Advisory Council on Discrimination in Pregnancy and Maternity is to consider non-legislative improvements to reduce discrimination in pregnancy and maternity in the workplace.
It is a collaboration between government, employers and family representative groups and members need a balance between these different groups for the board to do its job.