Many women who responded to the NEU’s maternity survey in 2022 reported that they were being pushed out of their posts when they informed their employer that they were pregnant. An employer will rarely admit that a woman has been dismissed for being pregnant, so it is important that members and reps are vigilant and work together to challenge any attempts to force expectant mothers out of their jobs.
Ending your contract, or selecting you for redundancy, because you are pregnant or taking maternity leave, is likely to amount to automatic unfair dismissal and pregnancy or maternity discrimination.
Protection from dismissal for a reason connected with your pregnancy means that your work should not be terminated on grounds of your pregnancy, your antenatal care, any pregnancy-related illness or absence or because you have had a miscarriage or abortion.
You should not be selected for redundancy for reasons connected with your pregnancy or due to the fact that you are expected to take a period of maternity leave. Your employer must not take into account prospective maternity leave and should make any redundancy selection for fair reasons based on a fair selection process.
If your job is at risk during your maternity leave, your employer must inform you of this and give you the opportunity to become involved in the process. You have the right to be offered a suitable alternative vacancy – if one exists – before it is offered to any other employees.
If an employer is reorganising or is considering making employees redundant, they must be able to show that the redundancy is genuine and necessary, they must consult and keep in touch with selected employees, they must establish non-discriminatory selection criteria and they must consider alternative work.
If you are dismissed while you are pregnant or during your maternity leave, you are entitled to a written statement of the reasons for your dismissal from your employer. This applies irrespective of your length of service and without you having to request it.
- Familiarise yourself with your terms and conditions – they should be listed in your letter of appointment. Seek out the maternity, family- related and redundancy policies that apply in your school or college - your NEU workplace rep or school office should be able to help you locate them.
- Use and share the practical pack of NEU Being pregnant at work resources. Advocate for your school to adopt the NEU model policy – to improve the working conditions of other pregnant women at work.
- Discuss your situation with your NEU rep and try to join any NEU meetings so that you’re up to date on what is happening at work. If you are not able to attend face-to-face union meetings, ask for the meetings to be hybrid so that you can participate. If your employer is planning a reorganisation or considering redundancies, ask questions about how pregnant women and women returning from maternity leave will be protected.
- Ask your NEU rep to bring the NEU checklist for leaders to the attention of your employer/headteacher.
- Keep records of your conversations and communications with your employer.
- Agree with your line manager and head whether and how you would like to be contacted during your maternity leave.
- Stay in contact with your rep and your NEU networks.
- Ask your NEU rep for support if you believe that you are going to be selected for redundancy or dismissed for a reason related to your pregnancy or maternity leave.
- If you need further advice about your rights at work, contact the NEU Adviceline on 0345 811 8111, or email us at [email protected].