Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination

It is an unfortunate sign of the times that we are receiving increasingly frequent enquiries from employees who have been subjected to Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination. We would always advise any person who is subjected to discriminatory behaviour by their employer to take independent legal advice. Of course, we hope they would contact us at Lincs Law Employment Solicitors. However, if you are considering raising your own complaint or representing yourself at the Employment Tribunal, we set out below some general guidance.

Who is protected from Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination?

In the employment sphere, employees, workers, job applicants, trainees, company directors etc., are protected from Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination or harassment by their employer. All aspects of the relationship are covered. For example, an applicant who is discriminated against in the recruitment process would be able to bring a claim against their prospective employer even if they never worked a day for that business.

The Equality Act 2010 identifies pregnancy and maternity as a protected characteristic. A woman has this protected characteristic from when she becomes pregnant until her maternity leave ends, she returns to work, or she opts to leave her employer’s employment.

During the above period, known as the protected period, she is protected against discrimination due to: –

  • The fact of her pregnancy.
  • Any illness or absence due to illness related to her pregnancy. She is or will be receiving maternity pay and/or leave.
  • She is breastfeeding.

On this page, we are providing an overview of the protections afforded in respect of pregnancy and maternity through The Equality Act 2010. However, it should be noted that there are additional protections which relate to health & safety, maternity leave, ante-natal care etc., in other legislation such as The Employment Rights Act 1996, the Maternity and Parental Leave Regulations 1999, and The Statutory Maternity Pay (General) Regulations 1986.

How do you know if you have suffered Pregnancy or Maternity Discrimination?

The Equality Act sets out various ways in which an employer’s treatment of a woman because of her pregnancy or maternity is unlawful. Briefly, it is likely you have suffered pregnancy or maternity discrimination, or harassment, if any of the following have occurred:-

  • Direct Discrimination

    This is where you have been treated less favourably because of your pregnancy or maternity. For example, if you were due to receive a promotion at work and then, once you notified your employer of your pregnancy, that promotion was withdrawn.

  • Indirect Discrimination

    This is where the employer has a policy, procedure or similar, which appears to apply to everyone but has a detrimental impact on an employee because of her pregnancy or maternity. For example, additional pay or benefits which require an employee to physically attend work.

  • Harassment

    This is where a woman suffers unwanted conduct, which creates a distressing, humiliating, or offensive environment. For example, derogatory comments relating to a woman’s pregnancy or maternity.

  • Victimisation

    This is where an employee raises a complaint themselves or supports another doing so and suffers a “detriment” as a consequence. A detriment could be a reduction in hours, a refusal to give a pay rise, a lost promotion opportunity, indeed anything which has a negative impact on that person’s work or employment.

Additional Protections for employees who are pregnant or on maternity leave

In addition to the matters above, a woman who is pregnant or on maternity leave receives additional protections in relation to: –

  • Maternity leave.
  • Provisions for return to work.
  • Health & Safety.
  • Maternity pay.
  • Antenatal appointments.

If you believe you are suffering Pregnancy or Maternity Discrimination, what action should you take?

The Employment Tribunal will expect you to raise your concerns with your employer. This will usually be done through your employer’s grievance procedure. Please see the information available on this website about how to raise a grievance at https://lincslaw.co.uk/blog/need-to-send-a-grievance-or-complaint-to-your-employer/ Any evidence you can gather to assist in your grievance will be extremely helpful. If the matter can be resolved at that stage, then all to the good.

If your employer continues to discriminate against you because of your pregnancy or maternity or the harassment has not been properly dealt with, you may have to consider submitting a claim to the Employment Tribunal. In order to do so, you will first need to begin a process called ACAS Early Conciliation. This is a compulsory procedure where an ACAS conciliator acts as a go between to try and resolve the dispute.

What are the Time Limits for Pregnancy or Maternity Discrimination or Harassment Claims?

You will need to begin the ACAS Early Conciliation process within three months less one day from the last act or incident of discrimination or harassment. The time limit for submitting your Employment Tribunal claim will depend upon the dates of your ACAS Early Conciliation. However, it is important that you begin the ACAS Early Conciliation process within the three-month deadline as to fail to do so may render your claim out of time.

Lincs Law Employment Solicitors can help you

If you believe you are suffering pregnancy or maternity discrimination or harassment at work, please ring for a free, no obligation telephone consultation on 01522 440512 or use the contact information on this website.

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