Pregnancy and maternity discrimination Hub

Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination

Research undertaken by the Equality and Human Rights Commission found that some 54,000 women per year are forced out of work by pregnancy or maternity discrimination, and that three out of four working mothers endure negative or discriminatory treatment at work.

Pregnant then dismissed

UK law protects pregnant women by making it unlawful for an employer to dismiss in connection with a pregnancy. If the reason (or principal reason) for dismissal is pregnancy the dismissal will be automatically unfair, regardless of the length of time the employee has been employed or the procedure the employer adopted.

A recent legal opinion on pregnancy discrimination from the European Advocate General  regarding a Spanish case has raised questions as to whether the UK gives pregnant women sufficient protection. The European Court is expected to given its Judgment on the case in the next few months.

Redundancy and Pregnancy

pregnancy and maternity discriminationIt is not automatically unfair or discriminatory to terminate a pregnant employee’s employment due to redundancy.

Unlike women on maternity leave, a pregnant employee does not have preferential rights to any suitable alternative roles available. This means, if a pregnant employee and a non-pregnant colleague at at risk of being redundant but there is an alternative suitable role available, the employer can select the best candidate. If the same situation involved an employee on maternity leave, the employer must offer the role to the employee on maternity leave even if another employee is better qualified or would otherwise have been preferred for the role.

The Equality Act 2010 (Pregnancy and maternity)

The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful to discriminate, or treat employees unfavourably because of their pregnancy, or because they have given birth recently, are breastfeeding or on maternity leave.

Time-limits for bringing pregnancy employment claims

Usually an employee has three months, minus a day, to bring a claim. Many people think this is not enough time and are campaigning for the time-limit to be extended to six months hashtag #givemesix.

The European Court of Justice has found that 'workers' must be able to carry over paid annual leave, even in instances where they have not had the opportunity to take it and called into question the legitimacy on the two-year cap on wages claims (King v The Sash...
Q: A line manager (Susan) has made negative comments about a pregnant employee (Charlotte), saying she’s useless in her state and is dragging the team’s performance down. The manager’s bonus is determined by team performance. The pregnant employee has been with us for five years and her sales figures...

How to trial flexible working

Q: An employee on maternity has requested flexible working. We’re not sure but would be willing to trial it for three months before deciding if it should be permanent. Is a trial a good idea and are there any downsides or tips as to how we should go about...
Q: We pay enhanced maternity pay but only statutory shared parental leave pay. A male employee has taken shared parental leave and raised a grievance because we don’t pay the same. Any advice? A: Deana Bates, an employment solicitor at Simpson Millar LLP replies... Unfortunately, the law in this area is far from...
Q: A pregnant employee wants to take time off for relaxation sessions. Do we have to agree and should it be paid? A: Alacoque Marvin, employment solicitor at Wrigleys Solicitors replies... The short answer to this question is very likely to be: yes. If the person making the request is an employee...

Discrimination Law Resources

Section 99 - Employment Rights Act 1996 - Automatic Unfair Dismissal in connection with pregnancy, maternity or family leave

Pregnancy and maternity discrimination: work cases

(1)This section has effect for the purposes of the application of Part 5 (work) to the protected characteristic of pregnancy and maternity.

(2)A person (A) discriminates against a woman if, in the protected period in relation to a pregnancy of hers, A treats her unfavourably —

(a)because of the pregnancy, or

(b)because of illness suffered by her as a result of it.

(3)A person (A) discriminates against a woman if A treats her unfavourably because she is on compulsory maternity leave.

(4)A person (A) discriminates against a woman if A treats her unfavourably because she is exercising or seeking to exercise, or has exercised or sought to exercise, the right to ordinary or additional maternity leave.

(5)For the purposes of subsection (2), if the treatment of a woman is in implementation of a decision taken in the protected period, the treatment is to be regarded as occurring in that period (even if the implementation is not until after the end of that period).

(6)The protected period, in relation to a woman’s pregnancy, begins when the pregnancy begins, and ends—

(a)if she has the right to ordinary and additional maternity leave, at the end of the additional maternity leave period or (if earlier) when she returns to work after the pregnancy;

(b)if she does not have that right, at the end of the period of 2 weeks beginning with the end of the pregnancy.

(7)Section 13, so far as relating to sex discrimination, does not apply to treatment of a woman in so far as—

(a)it is in the protected period in relation to her and is for a reason mentioned in paragraph (a) or (b) of subsection (2), or

(b)it is for a reason mentioned in subsection (3) or (4).

Section 18 - Equality Act 2010 - Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination

Pregnancy and maternity discrimination: work cases

(1) This section has effect for the purposes of the application of Part 5 (work) to the protected characteristic of pregnancy and maternity.

(2) A person (A) discriminates against a woman if, in the protected period in relation to a pregnancy of hers, A treats her unfavourably —

(a) because of the pregnancy, or

(b) because of illness suffered by her as a result of it.

(3) A person (A) discriminates against a woman if A treats her unfavourably because she is on compulsory maternity leave.

(4) A person (A) discriminates against a woman if A treats her unfavourably because she is exercising or seeking to exercise, or has exercised or sought to exercise, the right to ordinary or additional maternity leave.

(5) For the purposes of subsection (2), if the treatment of a woman is in implementation of a decision taken in the protected period, the treatment is to be regarded as occurring in that period (even if the implementation is not until after the end of that period).

(6) The protected period, in relation to a woman’s pregnancy, begins when the pregnancy begins, and ends—

(a) if she has the right to ordinary and additional maternity leave, at the end of the additional maternity leave period or (if earlier) when she returns to work after the pregnancy;

(b) if she does not have that right, at the end of the period of 2 weeks beginning with the end of the pregnancy.

(7) Section 13, so far as relating to sex discrimination, does not apply to treatment of a woman in so far as—

(a) it is in the protected period in relation to her and is for a reason mentioned in paragraph (a) or (b) of subsection (2), or

(b) it is for a reason mentioned in subsection (3) or (4).

Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination Articles

employers breastfeeding work law

Breastfeeding at work: what employers need to know

Q: An employee has asked about breastfeeding at work. What are our legal obligations? Katie Mahoney, Associate, at Doyle Clayton replies... A: “Breastfeeding at work” can...
full time employee wants part time maternity

An employee on maternity leave wants to go part-time. Any tips?

Q: A full-time employee on maternity leave has requested to return part-time. She’s expected to return in three months. Any tips on how to...
pregnant employee under performing law HR

A pregnant employees performance has dropped. Any tips?

Q: A pregnant employee’s performance has dropped. She’s made a few mistakes and missed deadlines. A customer has complained she wasn’t on her game....
pregnancy discrimination charity report

Government is failing new mothers in the workplace, says new report

The government is being urged to act on a pledge to review redundancy protections for pregnant women and new mothers. The charity Maternity Action says...