I think I am suffering pregnancy discrimination at work. What can i do?

Pregnancy and maternity discrimination is against the law. You must not be treated negatively when pregnant or while on maternity leave:

  • Because you are pregnant;
  • Because of a pregnancy-related illness;
  • Because you are on compulsory maternity leave; or
  • Because you have taken or asked to take maternity leave.

Pregnancy and maternity discrimination can be any kind of negative behaviour you suffer at work linked to pregnancy or maternity. For example, it can include:

  • retraction of training or promotion opportunities, demotion or side-lining;
  • being penalised for taking pregnancy-related time off, such as to attend ante-natal appointments or for pregnancy-related sickness;
  • being bullied or excluded;
  • being forced to change your shift pattern with no medical justification;
  • redundancy or dismissal linked to pregnancy or pregnancy-related sickness absence.

There is still a shocking amount of pregnancy and maternity discrimination in workplaces in the UK. Research by the Equality and Human Rights Commission conducted over 2015-16 showed that around 54,000 pregnant women and new mothers are forced out of their jobs each year. Many more struggle on, coping with harassment and negative attitudes.

Find out what policies your employer has in place to protect you from pregnancy and maternity discrimination and how you might go about raising these issues with management. It might be part of a wider equal opportunities policy.

Keep a written journal of the behaviour you experience, when it took place and by whom. Do this on each occasion if it happens more than once. If the behaviour is online, keep a copy of offensive texts, postings, etc. Note down what action you took to try to make it stop and what response you got from management.

Report the incident clearly in writing to management and ask for action to be taken. It is usually a good idea to set a timeframe if steps need taking. Escalate the issue to higher level management if your initial request is unsuccessful.

There is good advice on the HSE webpage for New and Expectant Mothers.  There are also specialist charities – Maternity Action, the National Childbirth Trust and Working Families, all of whom run advice lines and provide information sheets you can download.

If you are considering a tribunal claim, remember that time limits are very short – just three months from the date of the incident in question. You can find out more in our section on Enforcing your Rights.

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.

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