Skip to main content
In order to provide complete functionality, this web site needs your explicit consent to store browser cookies. If you don't allow cookies, you may not be able to use certain features of the web site including but not limited to: log in, buy products, see personalized content, switch between site cultures. It is recommended that you allow all cookies.
Want to stay on the right side of the law? We support businesses and public authorities and help them to promote good practice.

Pregnancy discrimination

Pregnancy/Maternity at work

What you need to know


Guidance for employers - what is pregnancy discrimination?

It is unlawful pregnancy discrimination to treat an employee less favourably:
  • on the grounds that she is pregnant.
  • for a reason relating to her pregnancy, or;
  • because of illness related to her pregnancy.

Some examples of where a woman's treatment would constitute pregnancy discrimination include:
  • She is temporarily unable to do the job for which she is employed, whether permanently or on a fixed-term contract on the grounds of her pregnancy.
  • She is temporarily unable to work because to do so would be a breach of health and safety regulations.
  • The cost of covering her work is too expensive to the business.
  • Her absence is due to pregnancy related illness.
  • Her inability to attend a disciplinary hearing due to morning sickness or other pregnancy-related conditions or;
  • Poor performance linked to pregnancy related conditions, for example morning sickness.

Who is protected from pregnancy discrimination?

  • All employees, casual workers and agency workers are protected from pregnancy discrimination from the first day of their employment.
  • The protection also covers recruitment decisions.
  • You are legally required when making recruitment decisions not to consider that a woman is pregnant, or might become pregnant.  It is unlawful not to appoint a woman because she is pregnant or might become pregnant.  The job should be offered to the best candidate based on merit and ability.

Further information:


When is a woman protected from pregnancy discrimination?

A woman is protected from pregnancy discrimination as soon as you know, or believe or suspect that she is pregnant.  She does not have to tell you she is pregnant until 15 weeks before her baby is due to be born.

If she chooses not to tell you and you aren’t aware that she is pregnant, she will not be protected from pregnancy discrimination if she is treated unfavourably, for example, by being dismissed or disciplined if she takes time off for pregnancy related illness.  She will also not be entitled to other rights, like paid time off for antenatal appointments, unless she has notified you that she is pregnant.

What is unfavourable treatment?

Unfavourable treatment is when an employee is treated badly or poorly on the grounds of her pregnancy or pregnancy related illness, or because she is seeking to take maternity leave.

You must make sure that neither you nor your employees, treat an employee unfavourably on the grounds of her pregnancy, or pregnancy related illness, for example:

  • Refusing to recruit her because she is pregnant or on maternity leave.
  • Refusing to allow her to take reasonable paid time off to attend antenatal appointments or criticise her for taking time off to attend antenatal appointments.
  • Failing to protect her health and safety where there are any risks.
  • Dismissing her.
  • Changing or removing her job responsibilities unless:
    i. Necessary for health and safety reasons or;
    ii. To arrange cover just before her maternity leave.
  • Disciplining her or treating her less favourably because of pregnancy related illness that occurred during the protected period.
  • Excluding her from business trips or refusing to allow her to travel, when it is still safe.
  • Refusing to let her have the same training opportunities as other employees.
  • Not considering her for promotion.
  • Denying her a pay rise or bonus or;
  • Otherwise treating her unfavourably, for example by ignoring her or making hurtful comments about her pregnancy or maternity leave.
Print All