January 11, 2016
Pregnancy, Motherhood and Discrimination in the Workplace
Women giving birth and having a family is of course a perfectly normal part of life’s journey and a happy event when you start a family.
Despite the natural circumstances of pregnancy and motherhood, there are unfortunately plenty of women who encounter discrimination at work when it comes to maternity leave and other issues related to being pregnant and raising a family.
Being a new and expectant mother in the workplace
If you find yourself in the position of becoming pregnant and have a job, you should be aware that there is legislation in place to protect new or expectant mothers from unfair discrimination at work due to their change in circumstances.
There are numerous questions that need to be answered in these circumstances and there are responsibilities for employers and employees alike.
There is no doubt that many mums-to-be certainly need some protection from any employer who tries to discriminate against an employee who becomes pregnant, when you consider that the equality and Human Rights Commission estimates that well over 50,000 women in Britain are forced out of their job after falling pregnant and having a child.
Regardless of how disruptive an employer might think it is that you are pregnant and going to need some maternity leave, there are laws in the UK that provide you with legal protection from being discriminated against because of a change in your circumstances like this.
It seems from anonymous feedback given by some women who have suffered discrimination that there are plenty of examples of blatant discrimination going on regularly, such as the woman who was told that the person covering her role during maternity leave had better skills and she was therefore required to return to work.
You have to act fast
An important point to remember about this particular type of discrimination in the workplace is that you have to act fast if you feel that you have been treated unfairly and forced out of your position or had to accept different working conditions.
Maternity discrimination is covered under the Equality Act 2010 and you could be viewed as having received unfavourable treatment if you are denied a promotion for example or you suffered discrimination as a result of your pregnancy and maternity.
You are specifically protected against pregnancy and maternity discrimination for a period of 26 weeks from the day you give birth to your child, so you have to raise the issue and take action within this period.
As many mothers will testify to, the prospect of facing a tribunal shortly after giving birth to a child is not something you would ideally want and if you are deemed to have been treated after this period has elapsed, it would then normally be considered under sex discrimination rules.
The level of discrimination against pregnant women in the workplace is not acceptable and although there are plenty of employers who act fairly and responsibly in these circumstances, there are some that do not.
This is why you should consider seeking professional legal advice if you feel that you have been a victim of discrimination at work.
Toby Gilbert is a personnel manager. He loves to write about his experiences online. His articles appear mainly on business websites.