Pregnancy and maternity discrimination

Fiona Cuming

Editor's message: Pregnancy and maternity discrimination differs from other forms of direct discrimination because it does not require the complainant to show that they have been treated less favourably than someone else. Instead, they must show that they have been treated unfavourably because of their pregnancy or maternity leave.

For example, if an employee has high absence levels due to pregnancy-related sickness, it would be unlawful for your organisation to take action under its absence policy as a result of this. There is no need for the employee to compare their treatment with 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 for employees returning from maternity leave and these would be considered under the provisions relating to indirect sex discrimination.

Fiona Cuming, employment law editor

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