Pregnancy discrimination at work – what are your options?

A top lawyer exclusively advises Marie Claire readers on what to do if they are victims of pregnancy discrimination at work

Timothy O’Callaghan, a partner at Judge Sykes Frixou, specialises in workplace discrimination and related disputes. Here, he shares his advice on how to tackle pregnancy discrimination at work as part of our #NotMyJob campaign.

Women have the right not to be discriminated against because of pregnancy and maternity leave.

Discrimination can come in many guises, it is not always as direct as your manager saying something like,‘We won’t be giving her that promotion – she’s about to be leaving us for a year and if she comes back at all, she’ll probably have ‘‘baby brain’’!’

That would be direct discrimination – a woman being treated less favourably than others because of the fact of her pregnancy. There is also indirect discrimination – putting rules or arrangements in place that apply to everyone, but that put someone who is pregnant at an unfair disadvantage. Equally, if you are subjected to harassment and victimisation because of your pregnancy or maternity leave, that will also constitute discrimination.

Suffering discrimination in the workplace can naturally cause us to feel a mixture of hurt and anger; but what options are open to women who find themselves being discriminated against because of their pregnancy or maternity leave?

You should first, if possible, try to deal with the matter informally, by speaking with your employer. If for example your line manager has looked you over for promotion because of your pregnancy, and made some discriminatory remarks about you, you should first take the matter up with that line manager.

If that does not resolve the situation satisfactorily or if you would feel uncomfortable discussing it with the person who has discriminated against you, you should raise a formal written grievance. Your employer should have a grievance procedure which will state to whom any grievance should be addressed. Your written grievance should contain all the facts of the discrimination that you have suffered and ask for it to be redressed.

If that does not result in your employer resolving the matter, or if you still feel aggrieved by the discrimination that you have suffered, there are a number of agencies that you can contact for advice in addition to speaking to a specialist employment solicitor. These are:

  • ACAS, which is a public body set up to help resolve employment disputes;
  • The Equality, Diversity Support Service, which offers advise specifically on discrimination issues;
  • Your trade union, if you are a member of one.

Often the intervention of a specialist employment solicitor can help you get the best possible result. Before contacting a solicitor for help, it is worth checking your home insurance policy, as you may well be covered for employment claims.

Please note that this article and the other legal resources published on our site from time to time can only ever amount to brief and generalised commentary on the issues concerned. They do not constitute legal advice and neither we, nor Judge Sykes Frixou Limited are able to accept liability for any losses arising from the same. If you are affected by sexual discrimination or other forms of workplace mistreatment, you should approach a specialist solicitor directly for advice. It is important to do so quickly as statutory time limits will likely apply.

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