Pregnancy Discrimination

By Andrew Willis
11 Nov 2019

Discrimination is an employment tribunal case waiting to happen. Despite this, pregnancy and maternity discrimination are still prevalent across the UK, even in light of further protections.

It’s important your business ensures this doesn’t happen. In this guide, we explain how to do that.

What classes as pregnancy discrimination?

If you treat an employee unfairly because they’re pregnant, or if they’re breastfeeding or recently given birth, that’s discrimination.

Signs of pregnancy discrimination

As with most discrimination cases, the behaviour towards the affected employee can take many forms. Some are obvious to even the least perceptive staff member. Others are harder to spot.

Here are a few red flags to look out for:

  • An increase in critical feedback.
  • The employee is singled out over others.
  • They don’t receive a promotion or pay rise, despite being in line for one.
  • Their workload suddenly decreases.
  • Their calendar has fewer appointments.
  • Training opportunities stop coming their way.
  • They don’t receive an invite to corporate events.

Of course, none of these are a sure sign discrimination is occurring. There are often perfectly reasonable explanations.

However, if you do notice a sudden change and feel it might be discriminatory in nature, speak out.

Types of pregnancy discrimination

There are a number of different types at work. One is pregnancy hiring discrimination.

Deciding not to hire a candidate because they’re pregnant, likely to get pregnant, or about to go on maternity leave classes as discrimination. Also, you mustn’t:

  • Refuse to give the candidate an interview
  • Give job on a part-time or limited period if it’s a full-time position
  • Offer a lower salary or less favourable terms

Another is pregnancy promotion discrimination. You can’t discourage an employee from applying for a promotion. You also shouldn’t refuse a promotion due to pregnancy or maternity leave.

Similarly, you shouldn’t refuse a pregnant employee pay or reward opportunities because of their pregnancy.

Unfavourable treatment is another. There’s a whole list of activity that can come under this category. Behaviour such as:

  • Singling out pregnant employees for redundancy.
  • Making inappropriate comments.
  • Penalising women who suffer from illness as a result of their pregnancy.

Can employers discriminate against pregnancy?

Some employers believe they can legally discriminate against employees on health & safety grounds. This is incorrect.

If you have concerns regarding a pregnant employee, you should conduct a full risk assessment and take reasonable steps to remove any risk. If you can’t remove the risk, you should suspend the employee on full pay or offer alternative work.

If you’re unsure whether an employee is at risk, seek independent health & safety advice.

If you decide to dismiss the employee or act in a discriminatory manner to the point where they decide to quit, then you may find yourself with a tribunal claim.

There’s no ceiling on the amount of pregnancy discrimination compensation tribunals can award. So, it’s best to avoid this scenario at all costs, or you might end up with a significantly large one.


Expert support

If you have any further questions regarding pregnancy discrimination or are struggling with a maternity scenario, speak to a Croner expert on 0808 145 3380.

About the Author

Andrew Willis

Andrew Willis is the senior manager of the Litigation and Employment Department and assumes additional responsibility for managing Croner’s office based telephone HR advisory teams, who specialise in employment law, HR and commercial legal advice for small & large organisations across the United Kingdom.





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