Pregnancy and Maternity and the law
The Equality Act of 2010 protects a person who is pregnant or expecting a baby. Maternity refers to the period after the birth, and is linked to maternity leave in the employment context. In the non-work context, protection against maternity discrimination is for 26 weeks after giving birth, and this includes treating a woman unfavourably because she is breastfeeding.
Unlike the other “protected characteristics” where the person is protected even though they may not possess the protected characteristics themselves, a person has to be either pregnant/ expecting a baby or “on maternity leave” to be offered protection.
Pregnancy and Maternity in a work context
It is unlawful for your employer to dismiss you because you are pregnant or for reasons connected with your pregnancy or maternity leave. It is also unlawful for your employer to deny you access to holiday pay, sickness pay training or any other contractual benefit that all employees are entitled to.
Pregnant employees have 4 key rights:
paid time off for antenatal care
protection against unfair treatment, discrimination or dismissal
‘Antenatal care’ isn’t just medical appointments - it can also include antenatal or parenting classes if they’ve been recommended by a doctor or midwife.
Employers can’t change a pregnant employee’s contract terms and conditions without agreement - if they do they are in breach of contract.
It’s illegal for employers to refuse to give pregnant employees time off for antenatal care or refuse to pay their normal rate for this time off, but fathers don’t have a legal right to time off to accompany their partners.