This page supplements our general guidance on Pregnancy or Maternity Discrimination, on Maternity Rights and on Coronavirus and Pregnancy. It suggests external specialist advice on different types of pregnancy loss and pregnancy-related ill health.

If you believe you have been discriminated against at work, contact the NEU Adviceline without delay. 

Call us on 0345 811 8111, or email us at adviceline@neu.org.uk.

  • Discrimination claim time limits

    Discrimination claims must be presented to a tribunal within:-

    • General rule (3 months less 1 day of act or omission complained of)
    • Summary dismissal (3 months from date employment terminated)
    • Dismissal with notice (3 months from date when notice expired)
    • Constructive dismissal (3 months from date of resignation, or from date when notice expired)
    • Failed promotion (3 months from employer’s decision)
    • Continuing act of discrimination (3 months from last act in the series)
    • Failure to make reasonable adjustments (3 months from decision to do nothing, or from the expiry of a period within which the employer might reasonably have been expected to do something)

If you are experiencing domestic abuse, you can contact the National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247 and you can access our Domestic Abuse and the Workplace resources for tips on how to get support at work.

Should you require immediate, confidential support including counselling or coaching related to your own experience, or as a result of supporting a colleague, you can contact the Education Partnership helpline on 08000 562 561.

A supportive work environment

Discrimination related to pregnancy, maternity or pregnancy related ill-health is unlawful. Managers and employers are prohibited from treating women unfavourably for reasons related to their pregnancy or childbirth or because they are taking, seeking to take or have taken statutory maternity leave.

Employers and line managers should be extra sensitive to the distress and trauma that working women may endure if they experience a pregnancy loss or a pregnancy related illness. Teachers and support staff are entitled to supportive work environments in which they feel able to discuss and disclose their pregnancy, a pregnancy loss or pregnancy related illness without fear of being disadvantaged or discriminated against at work.

We expect line managers/employers to listen, to offer advice on workplace procedures, to offer support and to seek advice & support themselves if they are unsure about pregnancy maternity rights, or health & safety issues.

Workplace reps can support pregnant women by listening, directing them to the local workplace maternity agreement and encouraging NEU members to raise issues collectively with the employer with the aim of improving working conditions for pregnant women, new mothers and women who have experienced pregnancy loss.

  • Advice Young woman using digital tablet at home
    Pregnancy and maternity discrimination

    The legal definitions of pregnancy and maternity discrimination, who is protected and the first steps you should take if you think you have been discriminated against at work.

  • Advice Pregnant woman in a blue dress sitting down
    Maternity rights

    Guide to teachers’ maternity rights explaining, as simply as possible, the various maternity and parental rights available to all teachers (e.g. shared parental leave), whether full or part time.

Ectopic pregnancy

According to the NHS and RCOG, in the UK, just over 1% of pregnancies are ectopic. If you have experienced an ectopic pregnancy, you have our sympathy. If you suspect you are experiencing an ectopic pregnancy now, you should seek immediate medical advice.

Symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy may occur from as early as 4 weeks into a pregnancy and up to 12 weeks or even later. If you experience an early ectopic pregnancy, you might not yet have informed your employer of your pregnancy. You should be able to disclose your pregnancy and your loss without fear of being disadvantaged or discriminated against, but it is up to you whether you wish to inform your employer of your pregnancy in those early weeks. Please be aware that you’re only entitled to a risk assessment or to the statutory protection from pregnancy discrimination once your employer is made aware of your pregnancy. You are fully within your rights to ask your employer to keep the knowledge of your pregnancy or pregnancy loss confidential only to those who need to know for health and safety purposes.

If you do tell your employer or line manager about your situation, they should listen to you, show empathy and understanding, and enable you to take the time off you need to recover physically and mentally from your experience and to support you when you are ready to return to work. Where your pregnancy ends in less than 24 weeks, you should be paid the contractual sick pay you would have received had you not been absent for a pregnancy-related reason. Often, ectopic pregnancies can require emergency surgery for which a woman is likely to require additional time off. Your employer is not permitted to take into account any pregnancy-related absences during your pregnancy for the purposes of attendance management. Any conversations with your employer should include your wishes for confidentiality and how your privacy will be protected when you return to work. 

Detrimental treatment of you on grounds of your pregnancy loss would be unlawful. For employment advice, you can read our general guidance on pregnancy or maternity discrimination and maternity rights.  For further, specialist advice and guidance, you can contact the leading charity focusing on ectopic pregnancy - The Ectopic Pregnancy Trust or visit their website: www.ectopic.org.uk

Miscarriage

Most miscarriages happen in the first 12 or 13 weeks of pregnancy. It is much less usual to miscarry after 13 weeks, but late miscarriages can occur between 14 and 24 weeks of pregnancy. Sadly, more than one pregnancy in every five ends in miscarriage. If you have experienced a miscarriage, we empathise with you.

As the education sector has a predominantly female workforce, it is very likely that other women colleagues in your workplace will also have miscarried a baby. If you’re aware that another woman at work has experienced a miscarriage, an informal chat together could help you deal with your pregnancy loss as a working woman and can help you navigate protecting your rights at work.

If you experience an early miscarriage, you might not yet have informed your employer of your pregnancy. You should be able to disclose your pregnancy and your loss without fear of being disadvantaged or discriminated against, but it is up to you whether you wish to inform your employer of your pregnancy in the first few weeks. Please be aware that you’re only entitled to a risk assessment or to the statutory protection from pregnancy discrimination once your employer is made aware of your pregnancy. You are fully within your rights to ask your employer to keep the knowledge of your pregnancy or pregnancy loss confidential only to those who need to know for health and safety purposes.

If you do tell your employer or line manager about your situation, they should listen to you, show empathy and understanding, and enable you to take the time off you need to recover physically and mentally from your experience and to support you when you are ready to return to work. If you experience a miscarriage prior to 24 weeks of pregnancy, you should be paid the contractual sick pay you would have received had you not been absent for a pregnancy-related reason. Sometimes a woman who has experienced a miscarriage will require emergency surgery and consequently additional time off. Your employer is not permitted to take into account any pregnancy-related absences during your pregnancy for the purposes of attendance management. Any conversations with your employer should include your wishes for confidentiality and how your privacy will be protected when you return to work. 

We expect employers and line managers to foster a supportive work environment for pregnant women and women who have lost a baby. You should be able to discuss and disclose your pregnancy and/or loss without fear of being disadvantaged or discriminated against. A good employer will show empathy and understanding and will implement your rights to pregnancy-related leave. You should be able to take the right amount of time off you need to recover, particularly if you have needed surgery.

Your employer’s approach will be particularly important in the arrangements made to support you in your return to work and we would expect them to put in place any adjustments to assist you at work and to consult you specifically on whether and how to communicate your loss to your colleagues if you had already disclosed your pregnancy.

Detrimental treatment of you on grounds of your pregnancy loss would be unlawful. For employment advice, you can read our general guidance on pregnancy or maternity discrimination and maternity rights.  For further, specialist advice and guidance, you can contact the Miscarriage Association or visit their website on www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk They have a UK-wide network of support group volunteers with personal experience of pregnancy loss, who can offer real understanding. 

Termination/Abortion

A woman may have a termination for a variety of reasons including a termination for medical reasons (known as TFMR). We support women’s reproductive rights which includes the right of a woman to make her own decisions in and around her pregnancy.

If you have had a termination, you are not alone. As the education sector has a predominantly female workforce, it is likely that other women colleagues in your workplace will have terminated a pregnancy. If another woman at work has disclosed that she has had a termination, you could consider discussing your intentions with her to help you work through your experience and help you navigate protecting your rights at work.

You should be able to disclose your pregnancy and termination without fear of being disadvantaged or discriminated against, but it is entirely your decision whether to inform your line manager or employer of your situation. Your employer isn’t required to undertake a pregnancy risk assessment if it is not aware of your pregnancy. If you do decide to disclose, please discuss with your employer your wishes for confidentiality and how your privacy will be protected.

Some women may decide to schedule a termination during a school closure period to avoid having to take time off for the procedure, or for the recovery, or to avoid probing questions. But there is no obligation on you to avoid taking time off during school time. Our advice is that you do what is best for you, for your physical and mental health and well-being. Should you need additional support at work or time off to recover, your line manager/employer should listen to you, show empathy and understanding, put in place any adjustments to assist you at work and enable you to take the time off you need to recuperate.

Detrimental treatment of you on grounds of your pregnancy loss would be unlawful. For employment advice, you can read our general guidance on pregnancy or maternity discrimination and maternity rights. For further, specialist advice and guidance, you can contact the UK's leading abortion care service, campaigning for women's reproductive choices: the British Pregnancy Advisory Service or visit their website at www.bpas.org 

Still-birth and neonatal death

If you have experienced a still-birth or neo-natal death of your baby or babies, you have our deepest sympathies. The rate of still-birth and neonatal death in the UK is declining in the UK but we are well aware that this does not diminish the grief and trauma that you will have experienced.

In the tragic circumstances of stillbirth, which is defined as taking place after 24 weeks of pregnancy, or of neonatal death, you retain your rights to maternity leave and pay. Your maternity leave and any pay will start the day after the birth if it had not already started. You may give your employer notice that you wish to return to work from your maternity leave early. Your employer could agree to waive the normal notice requirements, but you must take at least two weeks’ leave after the birth. Should you then not be fit to return to work on your notified day of return if, for example, your medical statement certifies postnatal depression, then you would be entitled to sick leave/pay in accordance with the usual sick pay provisions.

We expect employers and line managers to foster a supportive work environment for pregnant women and women who have lost a baby. You should be able to discuss and disclose your pregnancy and/or loss without fear of being disadvantaged or discriminated against. A good employer will show empathy and understanding and will implement your rights to pregnancy-related leave. You should be able to take the right amount of time off you need to recover, physically and mentally.

Your employer’s approach will be particularly important in the arrangements made to support you while you are on maternity leave and on your return to work. You should not be placed under pressure to return to work before you are ready. At the same time, you should be advised of your options and informed of the process for returning to work early, if that is what you genuinely want to do.

We would expect a good employer to consult you specifically on whether and how to communicate your loss to your colleagues and your students.

Detrimental treatment of you on grounds of your pregnancy loss would be unlawful. For employment advice, you can read our general guidance on pregnancy or maternity discrimination and maternity rights. For further, specialist advice and guidance, on still-birth you can contact the pregnancy charity, Tommy’s or visit their website: www.tommys.org  and for advice and support around neonatal death, you can contact Sands, the neonatal death charity; their website is www.sands.org.uk

Post-Natal Depression

If you suffered post-natal depression after your pregnancy, you are not alone. Post-natal depression is a common problem, affecting more than 1 in every 10 women within a year of giving birth.

There are many possible symptoms of post-natal depression. They include extreme anxiety, feelings of panic, inability to concentrate, sleep difficulties and obsessive thoughts. The good news is that post-natal depression is a treatable illness. Any mother who thinks she may be experiencing post-natal depression should see her doctor as soon as possible. There are many different treatments available, including anti-depressant drugs and/or counselling.

We expect employers and line managers to foster a supportive work environment for pregnant women and new mothers. You should be able to disclose your condition and discuss your health without fear of being disadvantaged or discriminated against. A good employer will show empathy and understanding and will implement your rights sick leave if necessary. You should be able to take the right amount of time off sick, particularly if you have needed medical treatment. If you suffer from post-natal depression which is likely to last more than 12 months, the illness may fall within the legal definition of disability, which means you would be protected from discrimination for reasons related to the disability.

Detrimental treatment of you on grounds of your pregnancy loss would be unlawful. For employment advice, you can read our general guidance on pregnancy or maternity discrimination and maternity rights. There are several support organisations for new mothers who have experienced post-natal depression. For specialist advice and guidance, you can contact the Association for Post Natal Illness or visit their website at www.apni.org