I've been sacked because I'm pregnant. What can I do?

It is against the law to treat you negatively at work in any way during pregnancy and maternity leave for a reason related to your pregnancy or maternity leave or because of a pregnancy-related illness. This would be a breach of the Equality Act 2010.

For example, it would be unlawful to sack you due to pregnancy-related illness, or because you told your employer you are pregnant or asked to take maternity leave. As well as being pregnancy discrimination, the treatment is likely to be unlawful sex discrimination if the employer would have treated a man differently.

If you are dismissed while you are pregnant or during maternity leave, your employer must give you a written statement setting out the reasons for your dismissal. If you are unhappy with these reasons and you want to make a claim against your employer, or if you think you have experienced unfavourable treatment because of pregnancy or maternity, get advice immediately from your union or a specialist advisor.

If you suspect that you have been the target of discrimination but are not sure, you can ask your employer questions. Acas has guidance on how to do this.

Make sure you keep a copy of your questions and any follow up letters. If using the post, it is a good idea to use recorded delivery to provide evidence of receipt. Your employer is required to respond to your questions within a reasonable time, but it is a good idea to ask in your letter for a response within a fixed timeframe, say 14 days.

You must act quickly if you are considering a claim in the employment tribunal because time limits in the employment tribunal are very short – usually just three months from the date of the negative treatment. There are special rules if the treatment continues over time, but these are complex. Take legal advice.

The first step in any tribunal claim is to submit an Acas Early Conciliation Notification Form to Acas. You must take this step before you issue your claim, or the tribunal will not hear it. Although you must submit the completed form to Acas, you do not have to participate in any attempt to conciliate your claim if you do not want to (neither does your employer). However, early conciliation through Acas can provide a good opportunity to find out whether there is any prospect of your employer resolving your claim without the need to issue a claim in the tribunal.

Acas Early conciliation is free and entirely confidential. Acas early conciliation explained (PDF, 128KB).

Acas’s role is that of an impartial conciliator. It is not to advise you as to whether or not any settlement offer by your employer reflects the true value of your claim. If you are at all unsure, speak to your union rep or to Citizen’s Advice.

You must submit your Acas Early Conciliation Notification Form within the three-month time limit for bringing your claim.

Contact Acas as soon as possible if you think you might want to bring a tribunal claim. There are strict time limits involved in bringing all claims before the employment tribunal.

For more information on bringing employment tribunal claims, see workSMART's Enforcing your Rights section.

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.