When you are in the last weeks of pregnancy and about to leave work, have recently had your baby and are beginning to think about returning to work or you are already back at work, the last thing you need is a difficult time from your employer when you have the huge challenge of parenthood already on your agenda.

Employers have a duty to respect and protect all employees, but increasingly, cases of pregnancy and maternity discrimination are being heard, with Citizens Advice reporting a 25% growth over the last financial year.

Citizens Advice have heard cases where the working hours of a woman returning from maternity leave have been cut, even though the employer has recently taken on other staff. Some women have been put on zero-hours contracts or forced out of a job altogether, and they can prove that this is directly linked to their pregnancy or recent maternity leave. Other women have had their contracts ended and only found out when they phoned to chase up the non-receipt of maternity pay.

Pregnancy and maternity discrimination complaints can be brought under the Equality Act 2010 in an Employment Tribunal, but the person must be able to prove they have suffered a detriment, for example working conditions are different, pay/hours are reduced or they have lost out on a promotion or been dismissed.

Working women who are pregnant are entitled to up to one year of maternity leave and should be fully paid for 39 weeks of that. They should retain their contractual rights with regards the accrual of holidays and pension contributions, and if they return to work before 26 weeks they are entitled to the same job as held previously. If they return after 26 weeks this should be a ‘similar’ job. Women on maternity leave are also offered additional protected in a redundancy situation.

A report recently found that 77% of women returning from maternity leave had encountered incidents of negativity or possible discriminatory treatment during their pregnancy, after returning to work or simply through breastfeeding. This is unacceptable and the law is there to protect you.

For more information on your employment rights, click here.

Yunus Lunat is the Head of Employment Law at Ison Harrison and is vastly experienced in dealing with cases of employment discrimination across many sectors, including maternity cases. At Ison Harrison, we see this as an area of concern and with the background history we have in dealing with these cases, we are in the right place to advise you.

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