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Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination

Unfavourable treatment because of pregnancy, illness arising from pregnancy and maternity leave is prohibited under the Equality Act 2010. 

If such treatment occurs during the pregnancy or maternity leave no comparator is required but the employee must show that she has been less favourably treated than is reasonable.

Dismissing a woman because she is pregnant or for a reason related to her pregnancy can be automatic unfair dismissal as well as direct discrimination.   Likewise refusal to employ a woman on the grounds that she might become pregnant is also unlawful direct sex discrimination.   In certain circumstances an employer can make a woman who is pregnant redundant but the redundancy must not be because she is pregnant or a reason related to her pregnancy.   In the event an employer places a woman who is pregnant or on maternity leave at risk of redundancy they must ensure that they have followed additional procedures to ensure that any subsequent redundancy can be deemed fair and not discriminatory. In these circumstances legal advice should always be sought at the earliest opportunity.  

Employers often also require assistance to ensure that they have carried out the requisite risk assessments for pregnant employees, how to deal with flexible working requests and generally to ensure that their actions or policy do not discriminate.

From the employees’ perspective, pregnancy and childbirth should be a happy and positive experience.  However, sadly for some women the announcement at work of their pregnancy can herald difficult times.  Some are subjected to detrimental treatment by employers such as finding that a promotion or pay rise has been cancelled or postponed or hasty business reorganisations leave them exposed to an unforeseen sham redundancy.

There are also health and safety issues for pregnant women at work and regulations to protect new and breastfeeding mothers returning to work.   The return to work after maternity leave can be a particularly difficult time and one where legal assistance can be valuable.

We can advise on all types of aspects of pregnancy and maternity discrimination and maternity-related cases, including where there is a failure to carry out proper health and safety risk assessments, restructuring or redundancy during maternity leave or a refusal to agree flexible working requests on return to work.