In England and Wales it’s against the law for your employer to discriminate against you at work because you are pregnant or on maternity leave. You can take legal action if you are suffering from Discrimination at Work.
It can be difficult sometimes to tell if your employer is treating you less favourable because of the fact that you are pregnant or on maternity leave.
If you’re not sure, speak to one of our specialist Employment Law Solicitors who offer a free initial discussion about your case so you know where you stand. We can advise you about the different funding options to make a claim.
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More about Pregnancy / Maternity Discrimination at Work
The Equality Act 2010 says that you cannot be treated less favourable because you are pregnant or on maternity leave. That’s because both are classed as a Protected Characteristic. A Protected Characteristic is something about you and the Equality Act decided on nine of these. An employer cannot discriminate against someone because of a Protected Characteristic, as that is automatically unfair.
To show discrimination in the workplace, a women does not have to show that she has been treated differently to how a man would have been, just that the unfair treatment was because she was pregnant or on maternity leave.
Pregnancy or maternity discrimination at work can happen during the recruitment process, while you are employed and even when you are facing termination of employment.
Pregnancy or maternity leave discrimination at work is slightly different to other types of discrimination at work claims. That’s because when you are pregnant or taking maternity leave this is a time called the ‘protected period’. It starts when you become pregnant and ends when your maternity leave ends.
You could still make a claim after the protected period has ended, if the unfavourable treatment came from something that happened or a decisions that was made during the protected period.
Otherwise, another option would be to allege that your treatment was unfavourable because you’re a woman.
Types of Pregnancy / Maternity Discrimination at Work
There are two main types of discrimination you may face at work because you are pregnant or on maternity leave. This is different to how other Protected Characteristics are covered in the Equality Act, but they are roughly the same, if not slightly enhanced for pregnant women or those on maternity. They are:
This means that you cannot be at a disadvantage because of your pregnancy or maternity. This means you must not:
- Be treated unfairly because you are pregnant or on maternity leave
- Have any disadvantage to anyone else because of any policy, procedure or work practice because of your pregnancy or maternity leave
- Face any unwanted behaviour because of pregnancy or maternity.
If you make a claim against your employer because of unfavourable treatment by them because of your pregnancy or maternity leave and then you suffer a detriment. That means you are damaged, harmed or disadvantaged because you either:
- Alleged that your employer was discriminating against you because of pregnancy or maternity leave
- Supported an allegation or claim made by someone else because of pregnancy or maternity leave discrimination
- Raised a grievance because of pregnancy or maternity leave discrimination
- Made a claim against your employer because of pregnancy or maternity leave discrimination.
You can also be victimised by your employer if they suspect that you have or will do one of the things listed above in future.
What Can You Do?
Don’t accept unfavourable treatment or victimisation from your employer because you are pregnant or on maternity leave. It’s against the law.
You should start by raising the issues you are facing either with your line manager or with your HR department if you have one. In addition to this, you should read your employer’s policies and procedures to see if there are any specific ones relating to pregnancy and maternity leave.
If you don’t feel that your issues have been resolved, you should raise a grievance with your employer. Do this is writing.
Finally, if your employer has still not dealt with the issues you are facing at work, you can make a claim in an Employment Tribunal, but you’ll have to go through the ACAS Early Conciliation process first (see below).
Making an Employment Tribunal Claim
There are a few things that you should note if you decide to make a claim against your employer for pregnancy or maternity leave discrimination.
Just Three Months to Make a Claim
You only have three months from the date of the unfavourable treatment or the last in the series of treatment to make a claim. This does include up to three months after your employment has ended. Time is short, so get expert legal advice from a specialist Employment Law Solicitor as soon as you can.
ACAS Early Conciliation
You will have to go through the ACAS Early Conciliation process before you can make your claim with the Employment Tribunal. This is to try to reach a settlement on your issues before going to an Employment Tribunal. Once the process is complete, your claim can move on towards the Tribunal.
Any time limits are paused whilst you go through this Early Conciliation process.
If you are not sure if you have a pregnancy or maternity leave discrimination claim, contact our specialist Employment Lawyers for a free initial discussion.
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