Making Sense of the Law on pregnancy and maternity discrimination for employees
Pregnancy discrimination at work is where you are treated unfavourably on the grounds of your pregnancy or pregnancy-related illness during the protected period from conception to the end of statutory maternity leave. Discrimination based on pregnancy in the workplace is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010, which also prohibits maternity discrimination.
Maternity discrimination is where you are treated unfavourably by your employer as a result of your maternity leave, or request for maternity leave. This is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010 which also covers pregnancy discrimination.
The protected period in relation to a woman’s maternity leave starts when the pregnancy begins. Where you have the right to ordinary and additional maternity leave, it ends on completion of your maternity leave, or when you return to work, if that is earlier. If you do not have that right, the protected period finishes at the end of the second week after the pregnancy ends.
If you believe you have been discriminated against due to your pregnancy, maternity leave or request for maternity leave, you should consult a specialist pregnancy and maternity discrimination lawyer.
Unlike other forms of discrimination in the workplace, there is only one specific form of discrimination in pregnancy at work. This is direct discrimination which is defined as someone discriminating against you, in the protected period, in relation to your pregnancy, or treating you unfavourably because of your pregnancy or any illness you suffer because of it.
There are no specific definitions of indirect victimisation and harassment on the grounds of pregnancy. Please refer to our sex discrimination in the workplace page for further guidance.
There are different forms of maternity discrimination, which occurs where you are treated unfavourably because:
In addition, pregnant women and women who have given birth have a number of rights on maternity leave including the right to one year’s statutory maternity leave (regardless of length of service), maternity pay and the right to the same terms and conditions including pay rises, promotion and bonuses.
It is also automatically unfair to dismiss or select for redundancy a woman where the principal reason is connected to her maternity leave (this includes non-renewal of a fixed-term contract).
If you are an employee, worker or under a contract to personally carry out work and believe you have suffered pregnancy or maternity discrimination at work with regards to redundancy, Settlement Agreements, training, promotion or any other employment issue, we can help. Our expert pregnancy and maternity discrimination solicitors have experience of successfully bringing a wide range of pregnancy and maternity discrimination cases. This includes bringing claims under pregnancy and maternity discrimination law on behalf of women who have been made redundant while pregnant, after their employer has found out they are pregnant or those who have faced redundancy when on maternity leave.
Where the situation cannot be satisfactorily resolved using a grievance process – or you have been unfairly dismissed – we can represent you at an Employment Tribunal.
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