Pregnancy and maternity discrimination

Susie Munro Editor's message: Pregnancy and maternity discrimination differs from other forms of direct discrimination because it does not require the complainant to show that she has been treated less favourably than someone else. Instead, she must show that she has been treated unfavourably because of her pregnancy or maternity leave. For example, if you have an employee who has high absence levels due to pregnancy-related sickness, it would be unlawful for you to take action under your absence policy as a result of this. There is no need for the employee to compare her treatment to that of someone who is not pregnant.

There is no provision under the Equality Act 2010 for indirect discrimination in relation to the protected characteristic of pregnancy and maternity. Many cases are connected with the refusal of part-time or job-share work to employees returning from maternity leave and these would be considered under the provisions relating to indirect sex discrimination.

Susie Munro, senior employment law editor

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