Pregnancy discrimination

09 December 2021

In the workplace, you need to be vigilant or how your employees are treating each other.

To protect the equality of opportunity, measures must be taken if an individual is being treated unfairly or even discriminated against. This can occur when a woman is treated unfavourably because she is pregnant.

To protect your employees who are pregnant, you should adhere to the Equality Act 2010 which provides protection for pregnancy discrimination.

In this guide, we’ll explain what pregnancy discrimination is, examples and how to deal with in the workplace.

Who is covered under the pregnancy discrimination act?

Pregnancy and maternity discrimination cover all workers who are pregnant, recently given birth or are breastfeeding.

If an employee is unfairly dismissed because they are pregnant or for maternity leave, they are also protected under the Employment Rights Act 1996. The protection applies from day one of their employment.

The protection applies throughout the pregnancy until the maternity leave is ends. This is usually around 52 weeks.

Additional breastfeeding protection

The Equality Act 2010 adds extra protection for women who are breastfeeding. If a mother is being discriminated against because she is breastfeeding her baby who’s 26 weeks old, this is direct sex discrimination.

Unlike other forms of discrimination, an individual doesn’t have to show they were treated worse because they are of the opposite sex. They just need to show that they were treated worse because they were breastfeeding.

Examples of pregnancy and maternity discrimination at work

There is many pregnancy discrimination at work examples, such as:

  • Redundancy selection because an individual is pregnant.
  • If an individual is dismissed because they are pregnant.
  • Pressure to resign.
  • Reduced pay or hours.

This list is not exhaustive and there could be other reasons for pregnancy discrimination.

Another example could be, derogatory comments around breastfeeding, and would be a form of harassment.

Pregnancy promotion discrimination

This is when a woman is overlooked or discouraged from applying for promotion due to pregnancy or maternal status.

Again, this is a prohibited act and an employer found guilty of this would face significant costs.

It can also damage the employer’s brand by leading to negative publicity, with potential knock-on effects for attracting and retaining talented individuals.

What happens if pregnancy discrimination occurs out of work hours?

Pregnancy discrimination is not limited to acts during work or maternity leave. It can also take the form of pregnancy hiring discrimination whereby a pregnant individual, or someone who has recently given birth is not hired because of this.

It may be that this information is voluntarily given, the fact is assumed, or the applicant is expressly asked.

However, if the information comes out, basing a recruitment decision on this would be an act of pregnancy and maternity discrimination.

Not only can this lead to a costly discrimination claim (the award for which is uncapped), but it can also lead to negative results for the employer who misses out on the skills and abilities of the individual.

Get expert advice from Peninsula

As an employer, you should follow strict procedures on pregnancy discrimination. If untreated, an individual could take action in the civil courts.

To prevent discrimination at work because of pregnancy, you should encourage equality and diversity training to improve awareness..

Ensure you are taking the right steps to make employees aware of the issue and following the right procedure to prevent it.

Peninsula Business Services provides 24-hour HR advice and can help ensure you are compliant with pregnancy discrimination in the workplace.

Get in touch today; or use our callback form to arrange for us to get in touch at a time that is convenient for you. Call us on 0800 028 2420

Suggested Resources