Whilst the UK has stringent laws in place to prevent pregnancy discrimination, pregnant women and new mums sadly continue to experience discrimination by their employer during pregnancy or maternity leave.
According to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, around 60,000 women each year suffer financial losses at work as a direct result of their pregnancy, with typical examples including failure to be promoted and salary reduction. In addition to this figure, around 30,000 women in the same period lose their jobs as a direct result of pregnancy discrimination.
During the course of pregnancy, women have the right to take time off for antenatal care and are protected by law from unfair or discriminatory treatment by employers. Importantly, employers are also prevented from dismissing women on the grounds of pregnancy. If a redundancy situation arises during the course of an employee’s pregnancy or when maternity leave is ongoing, the employer is required by law to offer the woman any suitable alternative position. This right takes precedence over and above the rights of other employees facing redundancy.
What are my rights to Maternity Pay / Leave?
In the UK women are entitled to take up to 52 weeks of maternity leave. This is split into two categories, ordinary and additional. At the end of ordinary maternity leave, which is 26 weeks long, the employee is entitled to return to the same job. Following additional maternity leave (an additional 26 weeks), the employee is entitled to return to the same job unless it is not ‘reasonably practical’ for the employer. In these circumstances, the employer must offer the employee an alternative job that is suitable and appropriate and, importantly, which has the same terms and conditions as the original position.
New mums are entitled to make a request to work flexibly on their return to work. However, it should be noted that there is no right in law entitling them to work part-time. An employer must seriously consider a request for flexible working, and can only refuse the request on the basis of specific reasons which can include, for example, extra costs that will damage the business or that the business is planning changes to the workforce.
The UK’s statutory rights for pregnant women and new mums have developed over many years. However, some employers continue to flaunt the rules and discriminate against female employees. In some circumstances, women have no choice but to leave their job, and pursue an unfair dismissal claim against their employer.
Here at Farleys we have a specialist team of employment lawyers. If you feel that you may have been treated unfairly during the course of a pregnancy or maternity leave, and would like a free of charge discussion about workplace discrimination with one of our experts, please do not hesitate to get in contact with us.
By Victoria Mitchell, Employment Solicitor in Lancashire