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Fiona Kyle
October 17, 2022

Are you worried about maternity discrimination?

According to recent research, a quarter of workers who find out that they’re pregnant are reluctant to share their news at work because they’re worried they’ll face discrimination.

The research, carried out by online reporting platform Culture Shift, shows this rises to almost half (46%) of pregnant workers who have been in their job roles for less than six months.

Pregnancy and maternity discrimination was the fifth most common discrimination claim from 2020 to 2021. The most common claims were around sham redundancies, offensive comments, failure to implement flexible working options and being overlooked for promotion.

So what are the laws around maternity discrimination and how can you best protect yourself?

In the UK, it is against the law to discriminate against anyone because they’re pregnant.

Pregnant employees are protected from the beginning of the pregnancy until the end. If you find out you’re pregnant, you have four main legal rights:

  • Paid time off for antenatal care
  • Maternity leave
  • Maternity pay or maternity allowance
  • Protection against unfair treatment, discrimination or dismissal

Pregnant employees are entitled to time off for antenatal care and to be paid their normal rate for this time off. ‘Antenatal care’ covers medical appointments and also antenatal or parenting classes if they’ve been recommended by a doctor or midwife. The father or pregnant woman’s partner has the right to unpaid time off work to go to two antenatal appointments.

Employers cannot change the terms and conditions of a pregnant employee’s contract without agreement or they will be in breach of contract.

If you have a pregnancy-related illness in the four weeks leading up to your due date which means you can’t work, your maternity leave, and statutory maternity pay will start automatically.

If you choose not to take statutory maternity leave, you must take at least two weeks off after your baby is born.

You must tell your employer that you’re pregnant at least 15 weeks before the beginning of the week that the baby is due. If for any reason, that’s not possible, you must tell them as soon as possible. As soon as you tell your employer you’re pregnant, they should assess risks to you and the baby.

These risks could include:

  • Heavy lifting or carrying
  • Standing or sitting for long periods without adequate breaks
  • Exposure to toxic substances 
  • Long working hours

If they find you are facing risks, they should take reasonable steps to remove these which could be changing your hours or the type of work you’re doing. If this isn’t possible, they should suspend you on full pay.

If you think you are facing discrimination at work because of your pregnancy, you can call the Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS) on 0808 800 0082.

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