Do you understand your obligations to pregnant women and maternity returners?

It is generally widely known that women who are treated differently or unfairly during pregnancy, maternity leave, recently after giving birth or while breastfeeding could make a claim for discrimination under the Equality Act. There is no qualifying length of service required for pregnancy or maternity discrimination claims and there are no limits on the amount of compensation that may be ordered. So as an employer, it is vital to understand the legal rights and responsibilities regarding pregnancy and maternity, or you could face a costly claim.

The following protection applies:

  • protection from unfair treatment, unfair dismissal and discrimination because of pregnancy, childbirth and maternity leave
  • entitlement to a reasonable amount of paid time off for antenatal care
  • entitlement to return to the same job on the same terms and conditions, if returning to work after the period of ordinary maternity leave and the right to return to the same or another suitable job with the same or better terms and conditions if the woman chooses to take additional maternity leave.
  • entitlement to make a request for flexible working

Recent case law has demonstrated a number of discriminatory practices such as:

  • Cutting working hours and/or pay
  • Selection for redundancy due to being on maternity leave
  • Failing to consult with the employee regarding changes or redundancy during maternity leave
  • Denying training or promotion opportunities
  • Not considering the employee for pay rises
  • Pressurising the employee to return to work early from maternity leave
  • Demotion on return to work
  • Changes in the attitudes of colleagues and management leading to verbal harassment

Employers must take time to consider how they are treating pregnant employees and women returning from maternity leave and if in doubt take advice to ensure that they are not unwittingly discriminating.  121 HR Solutions is able to provide advice and support in this area and can be contacted on 0800 9995 121.

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