While it’s hard to deny pregnancy and maternity discrimination doesn’t take place in a work environment and carries with it acts of unfair treatment towards expectant and new mothers, we have to ask whether for the most part they are actually carried out intentionally or unintentionally? As both intentionally or unintentionally can be as equally damaging to the employer and employee, this is because the legislative framework governing pregnancy and maternity discrimination is complex. It differs from that which applies to the eight other protected characteristics and operationally, pregnancy and maternity discrimination is also more closely linked to practices such as flexible working requests. This area of practice can therefore sometimes present businesses with additional complexities, which are not always managed appropriately.
Every year 54,000 new mums feel they have no choice but to leave their job, costing employers £1.65 billion per year in replacement costs. In addition 33% of dads have changed jobs to try and strike a balance since becoming a parent, suggesting a need for employers to have more flexibility when recruiting and or dealing with a flexible working request from parents in the workplace. It is reported that 1 in 3 HR professionals admit they don’t know what the right conversations are to have with women before or after maternity leave which could leave your business open to pregnancy and maternity discrimination claims if your HR department are unable to reinforce the business’s policies and procedures amongst the workforce.
Businesses may find it tough to achieve their goals if they do not take action against bias. Employees may feel disappointed and it start to affect their productivity. This may lead on to poor service and affect the relationships held with service users, consumers or clients. If an employee has been discriminated against in the workplace for pregnancy and or maternity leave, it is likely that they will want to take legal action against their employer. When this happens there is a digital footprint of that claim formulating on the UK Governments ‘Courts and Tribunals’ website which is open to the general public to view. Sometimes these cases are featured in local and national press, particularly if the Employment Judge rules in the employees favour. You may find that previous service users, consumers or clients stop purchasing from you or working with you altogether.
It is estimated that women drive between 70 – 80% of all consumer purchasing decisions, it is also reported that 60% of professional women leave their organisation within a year of returning to the workplace after maternity leave, the most common reason is that they feel unsupported by their employer. Britain could add £600 billion to our economy if we equalise women’s productivity and employment to the same as men’s. In addition, the cost of defending a claim can be financially crippling to small businesses, a simple case could cost: £4,500-£8,000 (plus VAT) whilst a medium complexity case could cost: £8,000-£17,000 (plus VAT) and a high complexity case costing: £17,000-£30,000 (plus VAT) in the case of an ET succeeding to a full hearing.
Additional barrister fees are likely to be between £1,000 to £2,000 per day (plus VAT) for attending a Tribunal Hearing (including preparation). Which could add an extra £5,000 – £15,000 to the overall cost for an employer to defend a claim. That is without the additional cost to the employer to investigate the claim internally and before any compensation that the judge may order the employer to pay the claimant (the employee) which could be ten’s of thousands depending on the severity and evidence supporting the employees claim(s)
Navigating the topic of workplace pregnancy and maternity discrimination can feel like a minefield, so let us make it easier for you. Take a peek at the free downloadable resources available at the bottom of this page and check out the frequently asked questions section. If the answer to your question is not there, feel free to get in touch via the ‘Ask a question’ tab.
You should not extend the probation period if the reason for your employee’s poor performance is because of her pregnancy or pregnancy related illness. But, if extending her probation period is justified by the extent of poor performance before she became pregnant, you can do so because the reason for the extension is not related to her pregnancy.
You can only take disciplinary action against a pregnant employee if the action is about a matter which is nothing to do with her pregnancy, for example if you think she has been dishonest. You must not take disciplinary action if this relates to your employee’s performance, which has been poor because of pregnancy related illness or another reason related to her pregnancy.
You need to make sure that you do not disadvantage a pregnant woman because of her pregnancy. There is a general guide on redundancies at https://www.gov.uk/redundant-your-rights/overview. There is also a detailed Equality and Human Rights Commission/ACAS guide for employees and employers on ‘managing redundancies for pregnant employees and those on maternity leave’: //www.equalityhumanrights.com/publication/managing-redundancy-pregnant-employees-and-those-maternity-leave.
It will depend on the circumstances but in any situation, if an employee suggests she has been treated badly because of her pregnancy and this is not the case, it is good practice to discuss her concerns, reassure her why any treatment was not due to her pregnancy, or say that you will investigate it. It is good practice to explain the situation from your point of view and clarify any misunderstandings. For example:
Wherever your organisation is on its flexible working journey, it can be challenging to know how best to overcome barriers like negative attitudes or a lack of leadership buy-in, and to adequately communicate the advantages and positive impacts flexible working can have on your organisation and its workers. That’s why we’ve put together additional tools and materials to help you enable flexible working in your organisatio
From this section, find out more about the following topics covering family friendly and flexible working rights by reading our overview of maternity, paternity, adoption, and shared parental leave