Under the Equality Act 2010, it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a woman because she is pregnant or has recently given birth. It is also unlawful to discriminate against a woman if she has pregnancy-related illness, or has exercised (or is seeking to exercise) the right to maternity leave.
Our pregnancy and maternity discrimination solicitors can help
Below, we’ve answered some commonly asked questions surrounding pregnancy and maternity discrimination, and given some useful examples of how this may look in the workplace.
What is pregnancy discrimination in the workplace?
This is when someone is treated unfavourably because they are pregnant. Juggling pregnancy and employment shouldn’t be made unnecessarily difficult, but unfortunately in some organisations this can be the case.
There is no qualifying period in order to bring a claim for pregnancy and/or maternity discrimination, so you have automatic protection from day one of your employment; whether you’re a full-time employee, an agency worker or a freelancer.
The protection against pregnancy and maternity discrimination lasts for a specific period. It starts when you become pregnant and ends when your maternity leave finishes. This is known as the ‘protected period’.
What is maternity discrimination in the workplace?
Maternity discrimination occurs if you are treated unfavourably because you are exercising or seeking to exercise, or have exercised or sought to exercise the right to maternity leave.
An employee on maternity leave is protected by pregnancy and maternity discrimination law until the end of their leave. Any unlawful discrimination suffered after that would still be classed as illegal, but this would be sex discrimination.
Examples of pregnancy and maternity discrimination in the workplace
See below for some common examples of pregnancy discrimination at work:
- Refusing to promote an employee because they are pregnant
- Not offering you the same training or promotion opportunities
- Treating you unfavourably because you have a pregnancy-related sickness
- Dismissing an employee due to pregnancy
- Refusing to provide workplace adjustments and accommodation
- Bullying or harassing an employee for being pregnant
- Forcing an employee to take unwanted leave, or making changes to their role due to pregnancy
- Mistreating an employee for raising a complaint about pregnancy discrimination
- Making a person’s role redundant while they are on maternity leave without there being a genuine redundancy situation
- Changing a person’s role, and expecting them to re-apply for it when they return from maternity leave (this may also include an employer suggesting to the person that they don’t apply)
- Cutting someone’s hourly rate or yearly salary while they are on maternity leave
- Refusing employment benefits, such as childcare vouchers or profit share bonus to somebody on maternity leave
These are all common types of discrimination due to pregnancy and maternity, and one of the main issues is whether a pregnant employee is given the opportunity to carry out their role as best they can. It is the responsibility of an employer to provide a suitable working environment for pregnant employees. This could mean bringing in adjustable desks, different chairs, providing seating if the job requires employees to stand, and also being flexible with schedules. A pregnant employee might suffer from morning sickness, so may ask for a later working schedule.
What to do if you’re facing pregnancy discrimination
If you feel as though you’re suffering discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy or maternity, it’s important to take the right steps.
In the first instance, you may wish to try resolving the issue informally, especially if you want to keep working with your employer. However, if this doesn’t work, there are other options available which include the following:
- Make a formal complaint. This is called ‘raising a grievance’.
- Negotiate with your employer to reach an agreement. This is called ‘settling’.
- Take legal action at an Employment Tribunal.
Our employment solicitors can help with each of the above.
Note: you MUST act quickly in this situation. You have three months less one day from the act of discrimination to bring your claim to tribunal, and going through ACAS can take up at least a third of this time.
If you need further advice and guidance regarding pregnancy and maternity discrimination at this time, call us now on 0808 164 0808 or request a call back.