Managing Maternity: Avoiding discrimination

discrimination pregnant employee

Discrimination because of pregnancy or maternity

You must not show discrimination against someone you employ, or are considering employing, because of:

  • their pregnancy
  • an illness related to their pregnancy, including related time off 
  • maternity pay or leave they take, or plan to take

The law applies regardless of how long the person has been employed.

It applies to:

  • employees and workers
  • some self-employed people, if the person has to do the work personally (this is a complex area so get legal advice if it affects you)

The person could take their case to an employment tribunal if they believe they’ve been discriminated against because of pregnancy or maternity.

Discrimination includes:

  • dismissing them
  • not offering them a job
  • changing their pay or other terms
  • forcing them to work while on maternity leave
  • stopping them returning to work because they’re breastfeeding

The law covers the person from the point they become pregnant until either:

  • their maternity leave ends
  • they return to work
  • they leave their job

If you do dismiss someone while they’re pregnant or on maternity leave, you must give them the reasons in writing.

If they’re having IVF treatment

Having IVF treatment can be difficult emotionally and physically. It’s a good idea to be understanding and supportive towards someone who’s having this treatment. For example, they’ll probably need time off for medical appointments. 

A supportive attitude also means they’re more likely to be open with you about how their treatment, and any problems they’re having, could affect their wellbeing or work.

An employee having IVF treatment should tell you they could become pregnant, once they’ve reached the ’embryo transfer’ stage. This is the point when a fertilised egg (embryo) is placed inside their body. 

If they’ve reached the embryo transfer stage

If the employee tells you they’ve reached the embryo transfer stage, from a legal perspective you must treat them as pregnant. 

From this stage they’ll have the same rights as any pregnant person (including leave, pay, and protection from discrimination because of pregnancy or maternity).  

It can take several more weeks for a pregnancy test to confirm if the pregnancy is successful. They do not have to tell you about the pregnancy’s success. But an open and supportive working environment means it’s more likely they’ll tell you about any issues that could affect their wellbeing or work.

Ensure you have an effective HR Policy for maternity in place. Contact Beagle HR to find out more

This article is taken and adapted from the ACAS website