Pregnancy & Maternity


Pregnancy refers to the condition of being pregnant or expecting a baby, and maternity refers to the period of 26 weeks after birth. The Equality Act 2010 protections also cover a woman who has had a miscarriage.


Great Britain

Under the Equality Act 2010, it is unlawful to directly discriminate against a woman who is pregnant or in a period of maternity in the areas of services and public functions, premises, work, education and associations. It is not unlawful to indirectly discriminate against or harass a person in relation to pregnancy and maternity. Any incident that would fall under the categories of conduct of indirect discrimination and harassment, though, would be likely to fall within the protected characteristic of sex.

A person cannot be discriminated against because they are pregnant or on maternity leave, and all pregnant employees are entitled to maternity leave, maternity pay, paid leave for antenatal care and protection against unfair treatment or dismissal. After maternity leave, all women are entitled to return to their old job. If an employer refuses to allow a woman to return after maternity leave, the woman may be able to make a claim for unfair dismissal, and make a claim for discrimination because of pregnancy and maternity.

It is also unlawful to directly discriminate against a woman who is pregnant or in the maternity period in relation to the provision of services and public functions, premises, education, and associations. This includes it being unlawful to discriminate against a woman because she is breastfeeding.

Northern Ireland

This particular protected characteristic is not covered under Section 75. However the Equality Commissionadvises “The principal statute that provides enforceable legal rights to employees is the Employment Rights (NI) Order 1996, although it is also supplemented by a series of associated statutory regulations, such as the Maternity and Parental Leave etc. Regulations (NI) 1999“.