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Factsheet: Pregnancy & Maternity Discrimination

This factsheet sets out employers’ and employees’ rights and responsibilities with regards to Employment Law and pregnancy and maternity discrimination

  1. What is pregnancy and maternity discrimination?
  2. Who is covered against pregnancy and maternity discrimination?
  3. What forms of pregnancy and maternity discrimination are covered?
  4. Additional protection for employees against pregnancy and maternity discrimination
  5. Different types of pregnancy and maternity discrimination
  6. Workplace rights for pregnant women and new mothers

What is pregnancy and maternity discrimination?

Pregnancy and maternity discrimination is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010.

This protection exists during the ‘protected period’ which is from conception to the end of statutory maternity leave.

Who is protected against pregnancy and maternity discrimination?

Women are protected by the Equality Act 2010 where they are:

  • A job applicant
  • An employee
  • A worker
  • Self-employed and personally providing a service

What areas of employment are covered by protection from pregnancy and maternity discrimination ?

The Equality Act 2010 provisions for pregnancy and maternity discrimination cover all areas of employment, including, but not limited, to:

  • Recruitment
  • Promotion
  • Training
  • Redundancy selection

Additional protection for employees against pregnancy and maternity discrimination

Your employees (not other workers) also have additional protection under the Employment Rights Act and the Maternity and Parental Leave Regulations. This legislation makes dismissal automatically unfair if it is due to your employee’s pregnancy or maternity leave. Subjecting a woman to any other detriment due to her pregnancy or maternity leave is also unlawful.

Different types of pregnancy and maternity discrimination

Pregnancy and maternity discrimination arises where a woman is treated unfavourably because of her:

  • Pregnancy or pregnancy-related illness
  • Exercising, seeking to exercise or having exercised or sought to exercise, the right to compulsory maternity leave, ordinary maternity leave or additional maternity leave

Women are also protected from unfair dismissal and detriment for reasons connected to:

  • A failure to return after maternity leave when you as the employer had not notified her of her return date
  • Working or refusing to work on keeping in touch days (see below)
  • A requirement or recommendation for a health and safety reason (where a woman is suspended for this reason, it must be on full pay)
  • Being made redundant during the statutory maternity leave period and not being offered an existing suitable alternative vacancy

Workplace rights for pregnant women and new mothers

Pregnant women and new mothers have specific pregnancy and maternity rights. It is important that you understand these rights. If you fail to observe these rights, you may face an Employment Tribunal claim for unlawful pregnancy and maternity discrimination and/or unfair dismissal.

Health and safety (pregnancy)

You must make suitable and sufficient health and safety assessments of the risks pregnant employees face at work.

Ante-natal appointments

Your pregnant employees – regardless of hours worked or length or service – have a statutory right to paid time off for ante-natal care.

Maternity leave entitlement

Your employees are entitled to one year’s statutory maternity leave regardless of length of service.

Keeping in touch

Your employees are entitled to work for their employer during maternity leave for up to 10 days without bringing that leave to an end.

Maternity pay

Statutory maternity pay can be paid for up to 39 weeks for those who qualify. Contracts of employment may provide for more generous terms and/or payments.

Compulsory maternity leave

Your employees must take a minimum two weeks’ maternity leave from the day of birth.

Pay and benefits

A woman may bring a discrimination and/or detriment claim if, as a result of maternity leave, she is denied benefit of the terms and conditions to which she is entitled (including pay rises, promotion and bonuses).


Statutory paid annual leave (5.6 weeks) continues to accrue during ordinary maternity leave and additional maternity leave.

Health and safety after maternity leave

You as employers must make suitable and sufficient assessment of the health and safety risks for new and breastfeeding mothers.


You as employers must provide adequate rest and meal breaks and suitable rest facilities (note – not toilets) for breastfeeding mothers.

Flexible working requests

Your employees with a child under 17 have the right to request flexible working. You as employers must give proper consideration to the request using the required statutory procedures.

Written reasons for dismissal

Regardless of their length of service, employees dismissed when they are pregnant or on maternity leave are entitled to receive written reasons for their dismissal without having to request them.

Unfair dismissal

It is automatically unfair to dismiss a female employee or select her for redundancy due to pregnancy or maternity. There is no minimum qualifying service period.


The preferential treatment of women on maternity leave over other employees during a redundancy programme is a rare example of lawful positive discrimination.

Your employees on maternity leave have enhanced protection from redundancy. Where a redundancy situation means it is not practical to continue to employ a woman on maternity leave under her existing contract of employment, she must be offered any suitable alternative vacancy and is given priority over and above any another employee who is also at risk of redundancy but not on maternity leave. This can be with an associated company. The terms and conditions must not be substantially less favourable than those of the previous contract.

From 6 April 2024, extended redundancy protection applies. This means that employers must offer a suitable alternative vacancy, (where one exists), in a redundancy situation to employees. This is from the time they announce their pregnancy until 18 months after the child is born, (or the expected due date).

Our expert discrimination in the workplace solicitors can help with all aspects of Employment Law, pregnancy and maternity discrimination. Contact us today on 01273 609911, or email to find out more.

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T: 01273 609 991

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