Maternity discrimination at work claims

If you believe you have been discriminated against at work because of your pregnancy or maternity, our employment law solicitors can help.

Maternity is a protected characteristic and, as such, maternity discrimination is against the law. If you believe you have suffered maternity discrimination at work, contact us.

As part of the Co-op Group our values of openness, honesty, social responsibility and caring for others are core to the service we provide.

What are my maternity rights at work?

Pregnant employees have certain rights in the workplace, which your employer must acknowledge.

During your pregnancy, you are entitled to take reasonable time off work to attend antenatal classes and other such appointments.

Once your pregnancy has been confirmed, you will be issued with a MAT B1 certificate by your midwife or doctor, which you give to your employer. Once they have this, you can then take time off work for antenatal care from 20 weeks of your pregnancy.

By law, your employer must take reasonable action to ensure that you are protected from any workplace risks that may pose a threat to your pregnancy. This could be anything from providing somewhere to rest if you are tired, to being more flexible with your working hours.

You must tell your employer about your pregnancy by the 15th week before your childbirth, so that they can make adequate provision for your pregnancy.

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What is maternity discrimination?

Under the Equality Act 2010, it’s against the law to discriminate against someone or to treat them unfavourably because they are pregnant, on maternity leave or breastfeeding.

Maternity discrimination can happen in different ways. Sometimes, it is direct. For example, being denied a promotion, because you’re pregnant and would go on maternity leave, or being made redundant because of your maternity.

Other times maternity discrimination is indirect. For example, if your employer is insisting that you use the same work station as everyone else, even though your work furniture gives you backache.

Usually, the easiest way to find out if you have been discriminated against because of pregnancy is to ask yourself, ‘Would that unfair treatment have happened if I wasn't pregnant?’

It is against the law for an employer to dismiss you or make you redundant because you are pregnant.

You are not under obligation to tell a prospective employer of your pregnancy during the recruitment process. However, if you are offered the job and the offer was withdrawn after telling them about the pregnancy, you may be able to claim compensation for maternity discrimination.

Legally, you should be able to return to the same job and responsibilities you had before you went on maternity leave. If you return from maternity leave and find your responsibilities have been greatly reduced, you may be able to make a claim.

Unfavourable treatment during pregnancy or maternity

Unfavourable treatment might include subjecting a woman to unfair treatment, placing her at a disadvantage or causing her to suffer unwanted behaviour because of her pregnancy or maternity.

There is no need for the treatment of the woman in question to be compared with the treatment of others in order to establish whether unfavourable treatment has occurred. This means that even if other people are being treated in the same way, the treatment may still be discriminatory. For example, if a pregnant employee is not permitted to take regular toilet breaks then this could constitute discrimination, even if her colleagues have the same rules imposed on them.

Protected period

All female employees and candidates are protected from pregnancy and maternity discrimination within a specific period of time, known as the ‘protected period’.

The protected period starts when the woman becomes pregnant and ends either when her maternity leave ends or when she returns to work (whichever is sooner). If she is not employed and therefore isn’t entitled to maternity leave, then the protected period will end two weeks after the birth of her baby.

If you suffer discrimination outside of this period, you may not be protected under maternity and pregnancy discrimination law but you may still be protected because of your sex. The same applies if you are not actually pregnant but have been discriminated against on the assumption that you are.

Funding your employment law claim

We provide fixed fee employment law services. We can provide a 1 hour consultation with an employment solicitor for £240 (including VAT) or a comprehensive claims report for £450 (including VAT).

We also offer hourly rate services for more complex employment claims and funding through legal expenses insurance (LEI).

Find out more about our fees and how to fund your employment law claim.

Making a discrimination at work claim

To make a discrimination claim, it must relate to a protected characteristic and early conciliation must be started within 3 months, less one day, of the discrimination taking place. If this criteria hasn't been met, the tribunal is unlikely to have the power to hear your case and we’ll be unable to help with your case at this time.

About Co-op Legal Services

Co-op Legal Services has over 600 staff working in different businesses with offices in Manchester, Bristol, Stratford-upon-Avon, Sheffield and London.

As part of the Co-op Group, our values of openness, honesty, social responsibility and caring for others are core to the service we provide.