The Equality Act 2010 covers all forms of discrimination in the workplace, including selection for a job, training, promotion, work practices, dismissal or any other disadvantage such as harassment because of a ‘Protected Characteristic’.
The Equality Act 2010 prohibits discrimination because of a Protected Characteristic. Pregnancy and maternity is one of the Protected Characteristics.
What is Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination?
Pregnancy and maternity discrimination occurs when an employer treats a woman unfavourably: during the protected period, because of pregnancy or because of an illness suffered by her as a result of pregnancy; because she is on compulsory maternity leave; because she is exercising or seeing to exercise, or has exercised or sought to exercise, the right to ordinary or additional maternity leave.
What is the protected period?
This starts when a woman becomes pregnant and its duration depends on whether she has the right to ordinary or additional maternity leave. The protected period will be different for different employees. Where a woman is not entitled to ordinary or additional maternity leave, because for example, she is not an employee, the protected period will end two weeks after the end of the pregnancy.
Who is protected?
The Act covers all employment and applies to apprentices, employees and the self-employed working under a contract personally to do work. Ex-employees can also in some circumstances make a claim against a former employer.
Who is liable?
The employer is generally liable for acts of discrimination; however, individual employees may also be liable.
Exceptions: When pregnancy and maternity discrimination may be lawful
In some exceptional circumstances discrimination can be lawful. There might be legitimate occupational requirement and protection of women.
Bringing a Claim
If you feel you have been discriminated against, you can bring a claim to an Employment Tribunal. Claims must be brought within three months (less one day) of the act complained of.
Where discrimination has occurred over a period of time then the claim must be brought within three months (less one day) of the last act in a series of acts.
It’s important in most cases for Claimants to submit a written grievance to their employer complaining of the discrimination. A failure to do so could result in any compensation being reduced by up to 25%.
Where a Tribunal finds that a claim is well founded, it can order the employer to pay compensation for financial losses and injury to feelings. The Tribunal can also make a recommendation that the employer takes specified steps within a specified time to remove or reduce the adverse effects of the discrimination on the Claimant.
How do I prove my case?
Establishing that discrimination occurred is not straightforward. Sufficient evidence must be provided to enable a Tribunal to conclude it is more likely than not that an employer discriminated against the worker.
There will need to be some factual basis upon which the Tribunal can make its findings. It therefore helps if the claimant can produce any relevant letters or documents. It is useful if the employee makes a note of the key incidents and the dates on which they took place.
If you feel that you may have been discriminated against, why not complete our discrimination questionnaire and we will contact you to discuss further. Alternatively, call us on 0333 344 9600.