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Unsure of your equality rights or the law? We can provide advice and assistance for people who feel they have been discriminated against.
 
 

Raising concerns of discrimination

During your pregnancy
Pregnancy at work

What you need to know

 

Raising concerns of pregnancy discrimination (grievances, requesting information, time limits and getting advice)


What can I do if I am worried about how I am being treated because of my pregnancy?

It is advisable to resolve matters informally first. If this does not succeed, raise your concerns more formally in writing. Below are some of the options:
 
  • Ask your union representative to raise your concerns with your employer.
  • Raise your concerns informally with your manager or human resources.
  • Write, or send an email to your employer explaining your concerns and setting out what you would like to happen.
  • Refer your employer to the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, or the Labour Relations Agency website so they can check what their legal obligations are to you.
  • Speak to the Health and Safety Executive if you are concerned about your employer’s failure to comply with their health and safety obligations.
  • Raise a formal grievance in writing. Your employer should follow their grievance procedure which should be consistent with the Labour Relations Agency Code of Practice on Discipline and Grievance.
  • Seek free advice from the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland or your local Citizens Advice Bureau.
  • Ask a solicitor to write to your employer – but this should be a last resort.

When should I take advice about discrimination and from whom?

You should seek advice as soon as possible bearing in the time limits for taking formal action. If you are a union member, you should seek advice from your union as soon as a problem arises, and discuss what to do next. You may wish to contact a specialist solicitor for advice, but you would probably have to pay.
 
  • You may also seek free advice about discrimination from the Equality Commission NI.
  • We may be able to provide you with legal assistance. See the Commission’s legal assistance policy (pdf) for further details.

Should I take notes of the discussions I have with my employer?

Yes. It is advisable to have a written record of all conversations and meetings. You have a right to take a union representative or a work colleague into meetings. If you go to a meeting on your own, make notes of what was said, either during the meeting, or immediately afterwards. If something has been agreed, it is advisable to write to your employer confirming in brief what you discussed and the outcome. Then you will both have a record.
 

When should I raise a formal grievance?

You should raise a formal grievance when you have not been able to settle things informally and you do not think that your employer will take your concerns seriously unless you follow the grievance procedure.

You should state the facts of your complaint and state that you believe that way you have been treated may amount to unlawful pregnancy discrimination or maternity discrimination or indirect discrimination. You should ask your employer to take appropriate steps to deal with your concerns within the time scales of the grievance procedure.

If you are not satisfied with your employer’s response, then you may wish to bring a discrimination complaint to the Equality Commission NI.

You should note that the statutory time limit for lodging legal proceedings will not normally be extended.
 

Do I have to raise a grievance before making a claim to an Industrial Tribunal?

Before taking legal action it is advisable to first try and resolve the dispute between you. However, this will not usually extend the statutory time limit within which you must lodge proceedings.

You may wish to use your employer’s grievance procedure or write to the employer stating the facts of your complaint and asking her/him to take appropriate steps to deal with your concerns. You should state that you believe that way you have been treated may amount to unlawful pregnancy discrimination or maternity discrimination or indirect discrimination.

If you are not satisfied with your employer’s response, then you may wish to bring a discrimination complaint to the Equality Commission NI.

If you are successful at the Tribunal and you are awarded compensation, the amount you receive may be reduced if the Tribunal decides that it was unreasonable for you not to take a grievance.
 

What grievance procedure should my employer follow?

Your employer should follow their grievance procedure which should be consistent with the Labour Relations Agency's Code of Practice on Discipline and Grievance
 

Can my employer dismiss me for making a complaint or raising a grievance?

It would be unlawful victimisation to dismiss you or treat you badly for complaining about discrimination.
 

Can I ask my employer why they treated me badly and do they have to respond?

You can issue your employer a questionnaire which will help you to decide whether or not to take your complaint further. Although your employer is not legally required to respond, failure to respond or to respond in an unhelpful way may be taken into account if you decide to take a claim to the Industrial Tribunal.

This is a formal procedure and there are time limits to be observed and procedure to follow.
 

 

Are there any time limits to taking legal action for discrimination?

Yes. In employment cases you must usually take legal action within three months minus one day of the date of the discrimination or dismissal.
 

Can the time limit be extended to lodge a claim of discrimination?

Yes, but only if the Tribunal considers there to be exceptional circumstances and it is advisable not to rely on this.
 

What do I need to do to progress my industrial tribunal claim?

If you cannot resolve issues with your employer, you should complete and file a claim form with the Office of Industrial and Fair Employment Tribunals [OITFET]. You can download a form from the OITFET website or complete one online.
 
  • You may wish to seek legal advice and/or contact the Equality Commission for advice on how to proceed. See our complaints process section
 
 
 
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