Campaigning Against Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination at Work in 2023
This January 2023, we are running Mind The Bump, our annual campaign to stamp out pregnancy and maternity discrimination in the workplace. We have been campaigning on this important issue since 2004, providing pro bono advice and training on women’s pregnancy and maternity rights and employers legal duties at work.
Unfortunately, we still deal with numerous cases where employers have intentionally or inadvertently discriminated against employees and workers who are pregnant or on maternity leave.
While there are some unscrupulous employers out there, we also come across employers who accidentally discriminate against their employees who are pregnant or on maternity leave.
A key aspect of our campaign is to educate employers so they avoid getting into this situation in the first place. When it comes to discrimination, ignorance of the law is no excuse, and it is important to put the situation right once this has been spotted. Discriminating against a pregnant employee or a woman on maternity leave can prove costly.
A common scenario is when a woman tells her employer that she is pregnant, and the unscrupulous employer believes that they can dismiss her because she does not have the two years of service that employees must have for unfair dismissal claims. Employees are protected from detriment or dismissal on the grounds of pregnancy or maternity leave from day one. These employers often don’t realise that they can reclaim all of the Statutory Maternity Pay they are legally obliged to pay this member of staff back from the government.
Another situation that our Employment Team frequently encounter is where women who are due to return from maternity leave discover that their job has ‘disappeared’ and that they are being made redundant. Employees are protected from unfavourable treatment relating to their pregnancy or maternity leave and whilst on maternity leave employees have some extra protection against redundancy.
If any employee is dismissed or selected for redundancy when the only or principal reason is related to pregnancy, birth, or maternity leave, this dismissal will automatically be considered unfair and will constitute pregnancy and maternity discrimination. Furthermore if there is a suitable alternative role for which the woman on maternity leave matches all the essential criteria they have the right to this role above anyone else in the business.
Furthermore, we have found that employers who support their pregnant employees, for example by awarding contractual maternity pay during maternity leave, tend to have a happier and more committed workforce, with improved staff retention. It is disappointing that forward-looking companies who provide numerous benefits overlook enhancing maternity pay and parental leave pay.
Thoughout January, we are training employers to understand their legal responsibilities towards staff who are pregnant or who are on maternity leave. This is in addition to training employee advisers about their employees / workers pregnancy and maternity rights at work.
We aim to create a healthy workplace culture where taking time off to have children is not seen as a lack of commitment. By supporting women who need time off work to bring up children, employers retain experienced and skilled workers for the long term.