Pregnancy & Maternity
Do you know your rights?
Did you know that in certain situations such as at work you can’t be treated unfairly because you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have recently given birth? This is because Pregnancy & Maternity is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act.
The protection applies from when you discover you are pregnant until 52 weeks after the birth at work or 26 weeks after the birth outside work. You have the protection at work from day one of your employment, regardless of any probationary period. It also covers pregnancy related illnesses, so, for example, you cannot be fired if you need to take substantial amounts of time off because of morning sickness. Unlike with other protected characteristics, you don’t need to prove that you have been treated unfairly compared to someone else, only that you have been treated unfairly because you were pregnant or breastfeeding or have recently given birth. This unfair treatment is called direct discrimination.
For example, your employer would be guilty of direct discrimination if he is looking to make redundancies and selects you because you are pregnant and have told him that you are planning to take maternity leave. Refusing to make adjustments to your role which you need because you are pregnant would also be direct discrimination; for instance, by not allowing you to start work later if you are suffering from morning sickness.
Direct discrimination also applies outside work; for example, a café owner tells you to leave because you have started to breastfeed your baby.
Unlike with the other protected characteristics, there is no protection against indirect discrimination because of pregnancy & maternity.
It’s important to know and understand equality law, but it can be complex.