What is pregnancy discrimination?
You may have thought that pregnancy discrimination was something that only happened in the last century but you’d be wrong. A study by the National Childbirth Trust (CBT) revealed that around 54,000 new mothers suffer pregnancy discrimination every year.
Their findings showed that:
- Around one in nine mothers (11%) reported that they were either dismissed; made compulsorily redundant, where others in the workplace were not; or treated so poorly they felt they had to leave their job; if scaled up to the general population this could mean as many as 54,00 mothers a year.
- One in five mothers said they had experienced harassment or negative comment related to pregnancy or flexible working from their employer and/or colleagues; if scaled up to the general population this could mean as many as 100,00 mothers a year
- 10% of mothers said their employer discouraged them from attending antenatal appointments; if scaled up to the general population, this could mean 53,000 mothers a year
The fact is, pregnancy discrimination is against the law, so if you do feel that you have been unfairly treated for any reason related to your pregnancy, then you can do something about it. At Wafer Phillips, we will take your pregnancy discrimination seriously and we will have the weight of the law behind us.
There are four types of pregnancy or maternity-related discrimination which we can consider:
- Direct discrimination – this is where your employer treats you unfavourably because you are pregnant, on maternity leave or breastfeeding.
- Indirect discrimination – this is where the workplace culture makes it impossible for women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or on maternity leave to do their job. For example, making people work set hours that don’t allow you to breastfeed your new baby.
- Harassment – this can take many forms, but is generally unwanted conduct towards your pregnancy, breastfeeding or maternity
- Victimisation – this is when you get treated in an offensive way because you’ve made or supported a complaint about pregnancy, maternity or breastfeeding discrimination
Is pregnancy or maternity related discrimination only valid if you’re pregnant?
No. Once you’ve had the baby you can still be discriminated against. As soon as you get pregnant you will be in what is referred to as a protected period. If you’re entitled to maternity leave then this protected period ends when the maternity leave finishes, or when you return to work – whichever is earlier. If you don’t have the right to maternity leave – for example, because you’re not an employee, the protected period ends two weeks after your child was born. If you’re treated unfavourably after this, you could still be protected against discrimination because of your sex.
Here are some scenarios where you could have a claim for pregnancy or maternity-related discrimination
- Targeting pregnant employees or new mothers for redundancy – You may take your employer to a tribunal for unfair dismissal if they are using redundancy as a reason to get rid of you while you are pregnant or on maternity leave.
- Inappropriate comments about your pregnancy – Do you feel that bosses and employees are making antagonistic or degrading comments about your pregnancy? If so, you could have a case for pregnancy or maternity discrimination.
- Having no good reason to refuse flexible working hours – Many new mums want to return to work part time and an unjustified refusal to allow an employee to work part time after having a baby is could potentially constitute indirect sex discrimination.
- Health and safety reasons – A risk assessment must be made for pregnant employees and new mothers.
- Dismissing you for falling ill – If you are dismissed for having morning sickness or another pregnancy-related illness you could have a case.
- Failure to communicate with you while you’re on maternity leave – Suddenly, because you’re away from the office you are no longer consulted about ongoing workplace matters. Many women on maternity leave are blanked by their bosses and feel cut off during their leave. ‘Reasonable contact’ must be made between the member of staff on maternity leave and the management.
- Not paying you properly if you’re on maternity leave – You are entitled to all contractual benefits whilst on maternity leave and if this hasn’t happened then a discrimination case could be brought against your employer.
- You’re given a different role following maternity leave – As an employee you’re entitled to return to the job role held before you started your maternity leave, if you’re returning to work after no more than 26 weeks. If you exercise your right to take further leave you should return to your role unless this isn’t practicable, then in that case you should be offered another suitable role on terms that are equal.
- Recruitment – You may feel you’ve been discriminated against if you were not offered a job because you were pregnant, or say, undergoing a course of IVF. You should be judged solely on your ability to do the job.
- Missing out on training opportunities – Do you feel like you’re being excluded from educational opportunities or additional training since you got pregnant? You might want to ask for clarification on why. Fewer training opportunities might suggest your employer doesn’t want to invest in you because of your pregnancy.
If you believe you are being treated unfairly because of pregnancy of maternity related discrimination you can:
- Speak to your employer, line manager, union rep or HR department to try to sort out the situation in an informal way.
- If that doesn’t work you can write to your employer.
- You can use your employer’s grievance procedure to make a formal complaint.
If you feel that you are still being discriminated against, then you can contact a legal professional for advice.
At Wafer Phillips we will support you through your pregnancy discrimination claim and understand that this is a time of your life that can be full of joys but equally stressful on many levels. The last thing you need is to be worrying about your status in the workplace. So if you feel you are being treated unfairly because of pregnancy or maternity related discrimination don’t hesitate to get in touch at: www.waferphillipssolicitors.co.uk