Discrimination on the basis of pregnancy and maternity is unlawful under the Equality Act (“the Act”). Therefore no employee or worker (including those deemed to be self-employed) should be discriminated against because of pregnancy or maternity.
If you feel you have been treated differently because you are either pregnant or going/returning from maternity leave then you may have a claim for discrimination.
Types of discrimination
- Direct discrimination: This is where someone is treated less favourably and that less favourable treatment is because of their pregnancy and/or maternity leave, for example where a line manager fails to promote a pregnant employee because she is soon to start maternity leave.
- Indirect discrimination: This is where an employer imposes a provision, criterion or practice (usually a policy) applicable to everyone, but which causes disadvantage to one group over another, and there is no objective justification for it. An example would be where an employer fails to discount pregnancy related absences during a redundancy process.
- Harassment: In general terms this is unwanted conduct which has the purpose or effect of violating your dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. This can be bullying which is violent or obvious as well as teasing, nicknames, jokes, or other behaviour which is not done with malicious intent but which is upsetting.
- Victimisation: This is where a person receives less favourable treatment compared to others because they have either brought (or given evidence in) an Employment Tribunal, or raised a grievance alleging discrimination protected under the Act.
- The Act also provides for ‘vicarious liability’ provisions, making an employer responsible for the acts of their employees.
An employee does not require a qualifying service to bring a claim for pregnancy or maternity leave discrimination.
The time limit for bringing a claim for discrimination on the basis pregnancy and maternity in the Employment Tribunal (ET) is three months less one day from the date of the last act of discrimination. Extensions of this time limit are only available in exceptional circumstances.
If an employee or worker succeeds in a claim for pregnancy or maternity leave discrimination, the ET has the power to order the payment of compensation. The award would normally comprise of two elements: injury to feelings and loss of earnings.
Further the ET has the jurisdiction to award damages for personal injury and make recommendations that an employer takes specific action, within a specified period.
If you feel you have been discriminated against in the workplace because of your pregnancy or maternity leave, please contact us on 0113 350 4030 or complete the enquiry form for a free telephone consultation. Alternatively, why not drop into one of our free clinics on Wednesday’s from 5:30pm until 7:30pm at our offices.
We will explore all avenues of funding.