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Can I be sacked because I am pregnant?
No. This is against the law. It would be an automatically unfair dismissal if the reason for the dismissal was your pregnancy. It would also be a breach of the Equality Act 2010, which says it is against the law for an employer to treat any employee unfavourably (for example by sacking them) because of their pregnancy.
No service is needed. You have these rights from day one of your employment.
For your employer to break the law, your pregnancy need not be the only, or even the main reason for the negative treatment. It is enough that it is one significant (i.e. non-trivial) factor in your employer’s reasoning when deciding to sack you.
In the real world, employers hardly ever admit to sacking someone because they are pregnant. Useful evidence to look out for pointing to possible discrimination includes:
- A hostile or negative response to pregnancy-related requests, for example for time off to go to antenatal appointments or for adjustments to hours or commuting arrangements;
- An obvious change in your employer’s attitude or behaviour, before and after finding out about the pregnancy e.g. suddenly finding fault with your performance for the first time;
- Timing – the closer in time the employer’s change in attitude or behaviour to hearing the news of your pregnancy, the stronger the suggestion that the two may be linked;
- Treating your fellow workers differently – for example, picking fault with you over minor office rules, but ignoring similar incidents by co-workers who are not pregnant;
- A pattern of past negative behaviour by your employer towards pregnant workers.
- Generalised hostile or patronising comments, not necessarily directed at you, that indicate a negative or stereotypical view of pregnancy e.g. ‘a woman’s place is in the home’ etc.
Employees who are sacked while pregnant or during maternity or adoption leave have the legal right to written reasons from their employer explaining why they were dismissed. You have this right from day one of your employment, whether or not you ask for it.
In addition, if you suspect that your employer has sacked you because you are pregnant, you have a formal right to ask your employer questions about the reason for your dismissal. Acas has issued guidance you can find on their website – Asking and responding to questions of discrimination in the workplace (PDF).