There are laws in the UK that protect you in the workplace if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or you have just given birth and are on maternity leave. If an employer treats you unfairly or detrimentally, under the Equality Act of 2010, you have the right to sue because they would be acting unlawfully. If you feel that you are being treated unfairly and that your employer does not abide by the 52 weeks leave you are entitled to when pregnant, you should contact a solicitor because their actions could constitute pregnancy and maternity discrimination in the workplace.
The Definition of Unfavourable Treatment In The Workplace
According to a formal report carried out by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission in 2015, it was found that every year 54,000 women were forced to resign from a job which constituted pregnancy discrimination and that 1 in 5 mothers were harassed in the workplace because they were expecting with 10% of mothers being discouraged from taking any time off for antenatal care.
The definition of being treatment unfavourably in the workplace because you are pregnant is explained below:
- Not being considered from promotion or included in any training programmes
- Working hours are reduced
- A decrease in pay
- Made redundant or fired claiming the grounds are pregnancy
- A failure to carry out necessary risk assessments of the working environment which could hold health and safety risks to pregnant women and unborn babies
- Being pressured to resign
Should your employer do any of the above, you should seek legal advice from a lawyer who would provide essential advice on how best to proceed with a pregnancy and maternity discrimination claim against your employer, bearing in mind that there is a strict 3 month minus 1 day time limit that must be adhered to.
What Are My Rights in the Workplace During My Pregnancy and Maternity?
Under UK law, any woman who is pregnant is protected from discrimination and this applies from the moment an employer is told of the pregnancy. It is automatically deemed to be unlawful discrimination should an employer choose to make you redundant because you are pregnant or because you take maternity leave. It is also unlawful for an employer to use any reason that is related to childbirth or pregnancy to fire you or make you redundant.
It is also worth noting that you are under no obligation to formally tell an employer that you are pregnant right up until 15 week’s before your baby is due. This is when you would have to give your employer due notice that you intend on taking the maternity leave you are entitled to. With this said, it is far better to inform your employer sooner rather later so that the necessary measures can be set in place to keep you safe from harm in the workplace during your pregnancy.
As soon as your employer is told of your pregnancy, you are protected by law from being treated detrimentally or unfairly in the workplace. It is during this “protected period” that you should always be entitled to the same benefits and facilities as all the other employees in the workplace who are on the same level as you are. Your “protected period” starts from the time your maternity leave commences right through to when it ends or when you return to work.
It is also worth noting that when you do return to work, you are entitled to do the job and hold the position you had prior to taking maternity leave. Should this not be possible, under the law, you must be offered an equivalent alternative should there be one available for which you should be automatically entitled to fill without the need to apply for it.
Should an employer fail to discuss the possibility of redundancy while you are taking maternity leave, it would be deemed that they actions constituted unlawful pregnancy and maternity discrimination. Other reasons that could constituted unlawful discrimination on the part of your employer includes the following:
- You are served with a notice of dismissal while you are pregnant without an official written explanation. If your employer fails to offer a “good reason” for your dismissal, it would automatically be deemed as being unlawful discrimination
- If you are off work because of a pregnancy related medical condition or illness, this cannot be considered as a reason for taking out disciplinary actions or redundancy
It is also worth noting that being pregnant entitles you to receive “reasonable paid” time-off when it comes to antenatal care and related medical appointments. It would be unlawful for your employer to insist that you schedule your antenatal appointments outside of your working hours but you should always give your employer fair warning of when your appointments are scheduled.
An employer cannot refuse to give you assignments or to reduce your workload because your are pregnant. It is also unlawful for an employer to assign you to carry out especially difficult tasks with an end goal being to get you to resign from your job.
If an employer treats you unfairly because you are pregnant or because you want to take maternity leave which you are legally entitled to take, you should contact a solicitor who specialises in pregnancy and maternity discrimination claims as soon as possible before doing anything else.
Your Employer’s Duty To Carry Out Risk Assessments When You Are Pregnant
The Equality Act also stipulates that your employer must carry out adequate risk assessments in working environments where employees include women who are of childbearing age with an end goal being to protect both your health and safety as well as that of your baby’s. This includes setting in place measures to avoid you having to do the following:
- Standing for long periods of time and that you can sit down when needed and/or take extra breaks when necessary
Should you not be able to take extra rest breaks, an employer must offer you alternative work which must respect existing employment terms and conditions. If this is not feasible, you are entitled to receive full pay during a suspension.
If you feel that your employer is failing in their duty towards you because you are pregnant, you should contact a lawyer and get legal advice who would provide you with essential legal advice on how best to proceed in filing a pregnancy and maternity discrimination claim against your employer.
What is Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination in the Workplace?
Under the Equality Act 2010 s.18, an employer cannot discriminate against you if you are pregnant or because you choose to take maternity leave or have taken maternity leave. To prove that you have been discriminated against, you would not have to make a comparison with a male work colleague, instead you would have to prove that the way you were treated was directly linked to the fact you were pregnant.
Under the law, you are protected whether you are an employee, casual worker, agency worker, contractor or freelancer from the day you start working for an employer. You are also protected under the Equality Act from being dismissed or treated detrimentally on the grounds of being pregnant or because you take maternity leave which is covered under the following laws:
- Employment Rights Act 1996 s99
- Maternity and Parental Leave etc Regulations 1999 reg. 19)
However, this legal protection only applies to “employees” from the day they begin working for an employer. Some examples of being treated unfavourably or detrimentally in the workplace due to being pregnant or taking maternity leave are listed below:
- Being selected for redundancy because you are pregnant
- Being dismissed on the grounds of being pregnant
- Being refused training or promotion
- Reducing pay or working hours
- Being put under pressure to resign because you are pregnant
- A failure to carry out necessary risk assessments where health and safety is a concern
It is worth noting that the report carried out in 2015 by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission found that the main reasons for pregnant women being discriminated against in the workplace were as follows:
- Being denied a pay increase
- Being denied promotion
- Having to accept lower paid work
- Not having access to training
- Not being allowed to take time off for necessary ante-natal care
If you experienced any of the above in the workplace when you were pregnant or wanted to take maternity leave, you could have the right to file a pregnancy and maternity discrimination claim against your employer and you could be awarded compensation whether through a court or in an out of court settlement.
Case Study of Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination in the Workplace
Miss H was offered an alternative to the job she was doing and was to work on a part-time basis. However, she found that the work was not suitable but her manager informed her that she had been chosen for redundancy because she should have been more flexible and that offering her a part-time position because she was pregnant was deemed to be the most suitable route to take.
Miss H took her case to a tribunal where it was found that her employer had not dismissed her unfairly because the correct procedure had been followed. However, the tribunal ruled that she had been discriminated against and she won her pregnancy and maternity discrimination claim against her employer.
If you believe you have a pregnancy and maternity discrimination claim against your employer because they threatened you with the sack, redundancy or because you were forced to take a reduction in pay or working hours and conditions, you should contact a lawyer who would offer essential advice on how to proceed in taking legal action out against your employer.
How to File a Pregnancy and Maternity Claim Against an Employer
For a pregnancy and maternity discrimination claim to be valid, you would have to prove that you were treated unfairly or detrimentally because you were pregnant and the same applies if your employer chooses to dismiss you. Providing evidence that your employer treated you unfairly for no other “good reason” than the fact you were pregnant is essential when filing a pregnancy and maternity discrimination claim against an employer.
If you believe that you have been treated unfairly because you are pregnant, the best thing to do is to seek legal advice. However, if possible, you should attempt to resolve the issue with an employer amicably. Should this fail, you should ask whether there is a “grievance procedure” that you could follow although this can also make it harder to resolve the problem without having the fear of losing your job.
Should your employer choose to fire you because you are pregnant even after attempting to resolve the issue in a friendly manner, there is a strict time limit to filing a discrimination and unfair dismissal claim against your employer which is 3 months less 1 day from the date you were fired from your job.
Should you wish to file a claim through an employment tribunal, the procedure that must be adhered to is as follows:
- You have to first contact ACAS Early Conciliation and this has to be done before the strict 3 month time limit ends. This could allow you to seek mediation or you may be able to reach an agreement with your employer before your pregnancy and maternity discrimination claim goes to before a tribunal
Should you be fired during your pregnancy or your maternity leave, you must be given reasons for your dismissal and this must be in writing. For an unfair dismissal claim to be valid, you must have worked for an employer for 12 months. However, if you started your job after 6 April 2012, you must have worked for the same employer for 2 years for an unfair dismissal claim to be valid.
However, you would have the right to file a discrimination and automatic unfair dismissal on the grounds of pregnancy and maternity leave from the first day you started working for an employer.
Should your employer refuse to pay you the Statutory Maternity Pay you are entitled to, you can contact the HMRC Statutory Payments Disputes Team where you would be able to claim the pay you are entitled to receive.
Should I Sue My Employer For Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination?
You have the right to file a pregnancy and maternity discrimination claim against your employer because under the Equality Act, your employer would be acting illegally. You may also be entitled to file an unfair dismissal and detriment claim against your employer because of the way in which you were treated in the workplace. However, there is a strict 3 month less 1 day time limit and specific criteria that must be met for an unfair dismissal claim to be valid.
As such, it is best to seek legal advice from a lawyer who specialises in this type of claim to avoid falling foul of the strict time limit and the many legal pitfalls that could mean your case is deemed invalid.
Are There Any Benefits to Working With a Solicitor on a Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination Claim?
Because pregnancy and maternity discrimination claims are complex, having the legal experience of a lawyer who specialises in this type of case, makes the whole process a lot easier to work through. The many benefits and advantages that a solicitor can provide include the following:
- You would be offered an initial, no obligation, free consultation which allows the solicitor to assess you claim against an employer and to determine whether your employer acted unlawfully towards you because you were pregnant or wanted to take maternity leave
- Once a solicitor determines you have a strong case against an employer who acted unlawfully, they would agree to represent you on a No Win No Fee basis which means you won’t have to pay them a retainer (upfront fee)
- The solicitor would begin investigating your claim by communicating directly with your employer and would follow all the necessary pre-action protocols
- Should the solicitor find that you have been unfairly dismissed, they would start legal proceedings against your employer as early as possible because of the strict 3 month time limit
- Lawyers have access to all the necessary legal libraries which can be referenced when representing you in a pregnancy and maternity discrimination claim
- The solicitor would ensure that you are kept appraised of the legal process and would endeavour to let you know how much compensation you may be awarded in a successful pregnancy and maternity discrimination claim
- A solicitor would ensure that you are awarded the level of pregnancy and maternity discrimination compensation you would be entitled to receive
Apart from all of the above, having a solicitor who specialises n this type of complex claim can take all the pressure of having to deal with the legal process off the table. It also means that you would be given crucial legal advice from the outset which would include what evidence would be required to prove your pregnancy and maternity discrimination claim against an employer.
Is There a Time Limit to Making a Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination Claim Against an Employer?
There is a strict time limit to filing discrimination claims which must be adhered to. The statutory time limit associated with pregnancy and maternity discrimination claims is set at 3 months minus one day. Should you fail to file your claim before the time limit runs out, your case would not be valid. As such, because the time limit is so short, the best thing to do is to contact a solicitor who specialises in pregnancy and maternity discrimination claims as early as possible.
If you would like to learn more about the formal investigation carried out by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission in 2015, please click on the link below:
To find out more information on Statutory Pay Disputes, please follow the link below:
If you would like more information on pregnancy and maternity discrimination in the workplace, please follow the link below: