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Maternity Discrimination

Maternity Discrimination

This is one all Employers should be wary of! When an employee is pregnant there are numerous rules and regulations to follow. If someone is seen to be treated unfairly because they are pregnant, breastfeeding or have recently given birth, they may have been discriminated against. The Equality Act 2010 calls this Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination.

Unfavourable treatment means that an employee is worse off because of the discrimination; examples may include:

  • Demotion
  • Not being considered for promotion
  • Denied a pay rise or bonus
  • Dismissal
  • Refusing to protect an employee’s health and safety where there are risks
  • Denying training or promotion opportunities
  • Not permitting attendance at antenatal appointments
  • Changing or removing job responsibilities (unless it is necessary for health and safety, you agree or it is to arrange maternity cover)


Unlike other types of direct discrimination, the employee does not need to compare their situation to someone else’s. It is enough to show that they have been treated unfavourably. All an employee has to do is show that they were treated unfavourably because of pregnancy and maternity.

The pregnancy or maternity doesn’t have to be the only reason someone is treated unfavourably, as long as it’s one of the reasons. Also, it does not matter if it was unintentional or the employer didn’t mean to discriminate; it can still be classed as unfavourable treatment.

Once you have an employee that tells you she is pregnant, then you should be considerate of all decisions that are made that could have an effect on that employee, even when they are not in the workplace and on maternity leave.

If a redundancy/reorganisation was to occur that included a pregnant employee or someone who was on maternity leave – then a full and proper process should be followed and care is taken.

If an employee raises any concerns (or indeed a formal grievance) then an appropriate meeting should be arranged where the concerns can be heard and discussed, and if needs be actions can be rectified.

When an employee has given birth or is breastfeeding, they are protected against discrimination for 26 weeks following the day they gave birth. (Note: If they are treated unfavourably after this, they could still be protected against discrimination. However, it would be sex discrimination rather than pregnancy and maternity discrimination.)

The law applies regardless of how long the person has been employed.

It should also be noted that you must also not discriminate against someone you are considering employing, because of pregnancy, maternity pay or maternity leave or planned leave.

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