Pregnancy and maternity discrimination takes place when someone is discriminated against or victimised on the basis of their pregnancy or maternity. This protection applies to more employees than are eligible for maternity leave. Some employees may be ineligible for maternity leave (e.g. due to being technically self-employed) but still eligible to bring a pregnancy and maternity discrimination claim.
Compensation for discrimination is uncapped, meaning the Tribunal can award a substantial amount. The compensation can take into account financial losses and ‘injury to feelings’, intended to compensate the victim for the stress and anxiety suffered as a result of the employer’s unlawful acts of discrimination. The amount of an award may be increased if the employer has acted in a particularly malicious manner.
Types of pregnancy and maternity discrimination:
- Discrimination because of pregnancy and maternity: This occurs where an employer treats a woman unfavourably- (a) during the protected period, because of her pregnancy or because of an illness suffered by her as a result of her pregnancy. A woman’s’ “protected period” starts when the woman becomes pregnant and ends depending on her statutory maternity leave entitlements. If a woman is treated unfavourably after this period, she may still be protected against discrimination because of her sex, (b) because she is on compulsory maternity leave, (c) because she is exercising or seeking to exercise, or has exercised or sought to exercise, the right to maternity leave.
- Victimisation: Victimisation occurs when someone is subjected to a detriment because they have made a complaint or raised a grievance about discrimination (or they intend to) or because they are assisting someone else who has complained about pregnancy and maternity discrimination for example by giving evidence in proceedings (or they intend to). Examples of victimisation include dismissing, passing over for promotion or not giving a bonus to an employee because that employee has submitted a complaint about discrimination.
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