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.
Note: Behaviours out of work such as the Christmas party or away days can give rise to claims against an employer (vicarious liability) or personally against the perpetrator(s).
- 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.
What remedies are available for a claim?
If an employee or worker succeeds in a claim for pregnancy or maternity discrimination, the Employment Tribunal 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 Employment Tribunal has the jurisdiction to award damages for personal injury and make recommendations that an employer takes specific action, within a specified period.
What length of service do I need to bring a claim?
An employee does not require any length of service to bring a claim for pregnancy or maternity discrimination.
Are there any relevant time limits?
The time limit for bringing a claim for pregnancy or maternity discrimination in the Employment Tribunal is three months less one day from the date of the most recent act of discrimination.
Extensions of this time limit are only available in exceptional circumstances.
How can we help?
We are experts in dealing with discrimination claims. If you feel you have been discriminated against in the workplace because of your pregnancy and/or maternity leave, please contact a member of the team on 0113 350 4030 or complete the enquiry form for a free 30 minute telephone consultation.
We will explore all avenues of funding.