Pregnancy & maternity
Pregnancy refers to the condition of being pregnant or expecting a baby, and maternity refers to the period of 26 weeks after birth. The Equality Act 2010 protections also cover a woman who has had a miscarriage.
Under the Equality Act 2010, it is unlawful to directly discriminate against a woman who is pregnant or in a period of maternity in the areas of services and public functions, premises, work, education and associations. It is not unlawful to indirectly discriminate against or harass a person in relation to pregnancy and maternity. Any incident that would fall under the categories of conduct of indirect discrimination and harassment, though, would be likely to fall within the protected characteristic of sex.
A person cannot be discriminated against because they are pregnant or on maternity leave, and all pregnant employees are entitled to maternity leave, maternity pay, paid leave for antenatal care and protection against unfair treatment or dismissal. After maternity leave, all women are entitled to return to their old job. If an employer refuses to allow a woman to return after maternity leave, the woman may be able to make a claim for unfair dismissal, and make a claim for discrimination because of pregnancy and maternity.
It is also unlawful to directly discriminate against a woman who is pregnant or in the maternity period in relation to the provision of services and public functions, premises, education, and associations. This includes it being unlawful to discriminate against a woman because she is breastfeeding.
For further information on the Equality Act 2010, visit the Legislation page of this Website.
Resources 2012 onwards:
Managing redundancy for pregnant employees and those on maternity leave. Equality and Human Rights Commission in partnership for ACAS, July 2012 (12 pages)
This good practice guide looks at correctly handling the redundancy process if you have employees who are pregnant or on maternity leave. It has been developed in partnership with Acas and is supported by the charity Maternity Action.
Download a copy