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Pregnancy and maternity discrimination

When you are pregnant, you are protected from pregnancy and maternity discrimination at work.


The NEU urges all employers to adopt policies and procedures which prohibit unlawful discrimination, and which allow employers to identify and tackle any discrimination fairly and quickly.

Your rights

When you are pregnant, you are protected from pregnancy and maternity discrimination at work, in addition to protection from sex discrimination, under the Equality Act 2010. This applies whether you are permanent, fixed-term, full-time, part-time, supply or agency. You are also protected from maternity discrimination if you are taking, seeking to take or have taken statutory or contractual maternity leave.

Your colleagues, managers and governors are prohibited from discriminating against you. If you are an agency worker on a day-to-day or longer- term contract, your agency and the hirers for whom you are working are prohibited from discriminating against you.

Protection from pregnancy and maternity discrimination starts when you are pregnant. In most cases, to enforce your rights you will need to show that you told your employer about your pregnancy, or they had become aware of it. If you are entitled to maternity leave, the ‘protected period’, as it is known, ends when your maternity leave ends, or when you return to work if you return to work before the end of your maternity leave entitlement. If you are not entitled to maternity leave, the protected period ends two weeks after you give birth or two weeks after your pregnancy ends.

Refusing to appoint you because you are pregnant; terminating a fixed-term contract early because you are pregnant; or refusing to award pay progression because you were absent with a pregnancy-related illness would be pregnancy discrimination.

Selecting you for redundancy because you have been on maternity leave; excluding you from a staff consultation on timetable changes because you are on maternity leave; or omitting to notify you of vacancies or promotion opportunities because you are on maternity leave would be maternity discrimination.

If you report maternity or pregnancy discrimination at work, your employer or agency should investigate your complaint, stop any discrimination, and take appropriate action to prevent it from happening again to you or someone else. Employers in the education sector should comply with the public sector equality duty to eliminate discrimination and advance equality.

Your actions

  • If you think you have been discriminated against, gather all the written evidence that you have, for example, job adverts, letters, emails, and relevant screenshots. Keep a diary of all incidents of unfavourable treatment including dates, times, places, the names of any witnesses and your response to the conduct or behaviour.
  • Ask your workplace rep or school or college office for copies of relevant workplace policies, for example, pay policies, capability procedures, redundancy policies. You can ask your NEU rep to bring the supporting pregnant women at work NEU checklist for leaders to the attention of your employer/headteacher.
  • Discuss your concerns with your workplace rep. Your colleagues may have made similar complaints and you may be advised to tackle the issue with them collectively.
  • You or your rep might decide to contact your branch or AdviceLine for further advice. You may be advised to lodge a formal grievance or to lodge a collective grievance with your colleagues. This may resolve the issue. In rare cases you may be advised to take the matter to an employment tribunal. The general rule is that a discrimination claim must be presented to a tribunal within 3 months less 1 day of the act or omission complained of. Check our discrimination webpage for more details your-rights-work/discrimination-and- harassment . The objective in all cases will be to stop any discrimination and allow you to continue working in a professional environment free from discrimination.
  • You should contact your workplace rep if you are subjected to detrimental treatment in retaliation or as punishment for raising a complaint of discrimination. This is called 'victimisation' and is prohibited by the Equality Act.
  • If your treatment at work is making you ill, follow the advice above on gathering information and seeking advice. Keep a record of how you believe discriminatory treatment has affected your health, e.g., your symptoms and any absences from work. You are advised to see your GP and to let your employer know in writing that the treatment at work is affecting your health. The union can help you write this letter. If you believe that the stress of discrimination or harassment at work has led to depression, an anxiety disorder, or psychosis, you may be suffering from a recognised psychiatric illness. If so, you should contact the NEU Adviceline on 0345 811 8111, or email us at [email protected].
  • Contact your workplace rep, branch secretary or local equality officer if you want to get involved in reviewing the equality impact of policies and procedures in your workplace.
Pregnant woman working from home on laptop

Being pregnant at work

Poor treatment of expectant mothers is not universal in our schools and colleges – we want to see more measures to support and accommodate pregnant women working in the education sector.

Find out more
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