Maternity and discrimination

If you have been dismissed or treated differently at work because of pregnancy or maternity, or suffered because you asserted your rights, you might have a claim for discrimination or unfair dismissal.

What is pregnancy and maternity discrimination?

Discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy or maternity happens when an employee is dismissed or placed at a disadvantage at work because of their pregnancy or maternity leave. Discrimination takes many forms, and can happen at various stages of your pregnancy or maternity including:

  • When you first tell your employer you’re pregnant 
  • If you’re pregnant during an interview with a prospective employer
  • During your maternity leave

If you are discriminated against during your maternity leave, this is discrimination on the grounds of maternity. If you are treated differently after your maternity leave ends, this may still be unlawful as it may amount to sex discrimination. 

Here are some examples of situations during your pregnancy or maternity where you are protected:

Pregnancy and maternity discrimination at job interviews 

You don’t have to tell your interviewer at a job interview that you are pregnant or intending to become pregnant. The interviewer should not ask if you’re pregnant or if you want children. If you’re pregnant during the interview, it shouldn’t affect the employer’s decision to offer you the job or not.

Promotion

Pregnancy or maternity should not influence your chances of advancement or promotion . Your employer should inform you about any opportunities for promotion that come up during your pregnancy or maternity leave.  If you need an interview for the promotion, it should be at a suitable time for you.

Pay during pregnancy and maternity leave

Your pay should only be affected once you are on maternity leave.  You might receive statutory maternity pay or pay as stated in your employment contract. You will continue to accrue annual leave and all other benefits should remain unaltered during your maternity leave. If you are in any doubt as to your terms and conditions during maternity leave, talk to our experts at Tees who can assist you. 

Training at work if you are pregnant or on maternity leave

Your employer should keep you up to date about training. Ideally you should discuss the best time for your training to take place with your employer so that it is still relevant when you return to work.

Being made redundant because you’re pregnant or whilst you’re on maternity leave

It is unlawful to select you for redundancy because you become pregnant or take maternity leave. 

However, your employer may make you redundant if the reason for the decision is unrelated to your pregnancy – for instance if the department you are in closes down and there are no alternative roles available. 

You have special rights during maternity leave to be considered for any alternative roles if you are at risk of redundancy. If your employer seeks to make you redundant, you should take specialist advice about your rights in this situation. You shouldn’t be pressured to leave upon your return to work, and your employer should keep your job available for you to return to after your maternity leave.

Managing absence from work during your pregnancy and maternity

It is very normal for employees to need time off work because of a pregnancy-related illness. Your employer should understand this and many employers will be very supportive. If you take sick leave because of a pregnancy-related illness (such as morning sickness) you should not be placed at a disadvantage because of it. 

Taking time off work for ante-natal appointments

You are entitled to time off to attend ante-natal appointments during your pregnancy. This should not come out of your annual leave allowance, and your employer should not ask you to book annual leave for this.

Drop in performance at work during pregnancy

Pregnancy-related issues can cause your performance at work to dip. Things like morning sickness, fatigue and time off work due to a pregnancy-related sickness take their toll and can affect your work. Your employer should be understanding, and make allowances during your pregnancy. You should not be placed at a disadvantage because your pregnancy affected your performance at work. Instead, your employer should be reasonable and take steps to help make your life easier (where appropriate). For example, if you miss an important meeting due to pregnancy-related sickness, your manager should bring you up to speed when you are back in work.

Dismissal during pregnancy or maternity leave

You can be dismissed if you are pregnant or on maternity leave, but only if the dismissal is not related to your pregnancy or maternity. It is unlawful for your employer to dismiss you because you are pregnant, even if you have only been employed with them a short period of time.

If your employer seeks to dismiss you at any time during your pregnancy or maternity leave, it is worth taking specialist advice about your rights. It might be discrimination if the reason for the dismissal is connected to your pregnancy/maternity. 

Working during your maternity leave

Your employer should not place any pressure on your to work during your maternity leave. You are allowed to work up to 10 ‘keeping in touch’ (KIT) days during your maternity leave without ending your maternity leave or pay. KIT days are completely optional and need to be agreed between you and your employer. Your employer cannot insist that you work a KIT day.

Your employer is allowed to make reasonable contact with you during your maternity leave. Your manager should agree with you, before your maternity leave starts, the best way to keep in touch. 

Returning to work after maternity leave

You should discuss a suitable date to return to work with your manager. Upon return to work, your employer can offer you reduced hours, a different role or your old job. However, you absolutely don’t have to accept any changes that you aren’t happy with. You also have the right to ask to work flexibly if you have been in employment for at least 26 weeks.

Victimisation 

If you make an allegation of discrimination and consequently you find that you are ignored, denied opportunities or given a poor reference, you might have a claim for victimisation – i.e.:  that you have been treated detrimentally for asserting your rights - this is likely to be unlawful and we recommend you seek expert advice on the next steps you might take. 

What is the protected period in pregnancy?

The protected period starts when you become pregnant and ends when your maternity leave finishes or when you return to work (whichever is earlier). During the protected period you have legal protection against being treated unfavourably or victimised because of your pregnancy.

You may also be protected after this specific period if the unfavourable treatment or victimisation you experience stems from something that happened within the protected period.

After the end of the protected period you can still claim discrimination if you are treated wrongly because of your gender. 

Claiming for pregnancy discrimination

If you want to make a claim for pregnancy or maternity discrimination, it is worth finding out about your legal rights beforehand and taking the advice of an employment law specialist. You will be able to discuss your claim with the solicitor and find out if it meets certain conditions and your chances of making a successful claim.

Most employment disputes are heard through an employment tribunal, and there is a strict time limit for making a claim for pregnancy discrimination which is three months less one day from date of act complained of. 

You must go through the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) before you can submit a claim to the tribunal, and this should be in addition to (and not instead of) taking independent legal advice.  You can find more information about the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Servic on their website.

Pregnancy discrimination solicitors and advice

If you think you have experienced or are experiencing pregnancy or maternity discrimination at work you may wish to talk to one of our employment law specialists. We’ll carefully consider your situation and advise on the best way to take your case forward. If you wish to make a formal claim for pregnancy or maternity discrimination we recommend that you take legal advice before proceeding.

Call our specialist Employment Law solicitors on 01245 293197 for an initial chat, at no obligation, or fill out our enquiry form and a solicitor will get in touch.

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