What is direct pregnancy and maternity discrimination?

Under s.18 of the Equality Act 2010, direct pregnancy and maternity discrimination occurs if, during the protected period, in relation to a pregnancy of hers, a person (A) treats a woman unfavourably because of her pregnancy or because of illness suffered by her as a result of pregnancy. A also discriminates against a woman if A treats her unfavourably because she is on compulsory maternity leave; she is exercising or seeking to exercise the right to ordinary or additional maternity leave; or she has exercised or sought to exercise the right to ordinary or additional maternity leave.

Section 18(6) provides that the "protected period" in relation to a woman's pregnancy begins "when the pregnancy begins" and ends: if she has the right to ordinary and additional maternity leave, at the end of the additional maternity leave period or (if earlier) when she returns to work after the pregnancy (s.18(6)(a)); or if she does not have the right to ordinary and additional maternity leave (for example, because she is not an employee) at the end of the period of two weeks beginning with the end of the pregnancy (s.18(6)(b)).