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What are the laws regarding maternity discrimination in the workplace?

As an employer, creating a balanced, non-discriminatory workplace should be your priority.

Yet, maternity discrimination is a significant issue faced by many pregnant women and new mothers.

In fact, a recent employment tribunal revealed that a pregnant worker discovered that her job was advertised before she was fired.

The tribunal ruled that the business fired the worker to avoid paying her whilst on maternity leave. The worker received £17,500 in compensation.

To avoid cases such as this, make sure you know the laws regarding maternity in the workplace.

The Equality Act 2010

The cornerstone of anti-discrimination law in the UK is the Equality Act 2010.

This Act provides extensive protection against discrimination for several ‘protected characteristics’, one of which is pregnancy and maternity.

Specifically, the Act includes the Protected Period, which protects individuals during their maternity leave, which all employees have the right to take.

In the case that the individual is classed as a “worker”, rather than an “employee”, and does not have the right to take maternity leave, this period lasts for two weeks following the birth.

The Maternity and Parental Leave Regulations 1999

This piece of legislation entitles employees to 26 weeks of Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML) and 26 weeks of Additional Maternity Leave (AML), totalling up to 52 weeks. Importantly, women have the right to return to the same job after OML or a similar job after AML.

Additionally, pregnant women have the right to reasonable paid time off for antenatal care. These protections extend to the early stages of pregnancy, and any adverse action taken against a woman from the time she becomes pregnant to the end of her maternity leave is considered automatically unfair.

Paternity leave regulations enable the partner of the person who is pregnant to take one or two weeks of paid Paternity Leave, Paternity Pay or Shared Parental Leave and Pay.

How can you foster a supportive environment?

You must ensure that you adhere to these laws and enable your employees to take the leave that they are entitled to.

This commitment involves not only avoiding discriminatory practices but also taking proactive steps to accommodate the needs of these employees.

You should cultivate a culture where maternity rights are respected and upheld, thus promoting equality in the workplace.

Contact us for advice on your employment law obligations.

Amanda Hyam

Senior Associate – Dispute Resolution / Employment

I have specialised in Dispute Resolution, Civil Litigation and Employment law for more than 15 years.  I understand how daunting the prospect of litigation can be and because of this I am always available to discuss concerns.