The recent case of a social media marketer who was told she “had a baby at the wrong time” by her manager has reignited the conversation about maternity and pregnancy discrimination.
This case, unfortunately, is far from an isolated incident. In a report published by the UK Government, 77% of mothers have admitted to experiencing negative or possible discriminatory experiences during pregnancy, maternity leave and the return from it. Many women face unfair treatment and discrimination in the workplace simply for being pregnant or having recently given birth.
Understanding the Case
The marketer, Ms Yongo, was on maternity leave when her company, ACCA, underwent a restructuring. While her previous role involved a combination of social media management and strategic duties, the new role offered only the social media aspect, with the strategic responsibilities removed. Additionally, Ms. Yongo was not considered for a newly created role that closely resembled her previous duties.
During a conversation with her manager, he made the insensitive comment, “You had a baby at the wrong time.” This statement, coupled with the unfavourable changes to her role, led Ms Yongo to raise a grievance for maternity and pregnancy discrimination.
Meticulously documenting every interaction, from the inequitable restructuring to the exclusionary meetings and emails, she built a compelling case.
Facing an initial dismissal of her grievance by ACCA, she took the bold step of pursuing an employment tribunal claim. Her courage paid off as the tribunal ruled in her favour, acknowledging the impact of her maternity leave on ACCA’s actions and deeming the manager’s comment discriminatory. ACCA, though expressing disappointment, ultimately respected the tribunal’s decision.
Know Your Rights
Every woman must be aware of her rights regarding maternity and pregnancy discrimination. The Equality Act 2010 protects individuals from discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, or taking maternity leave.
This protection extends from the moment you become pregnant until the end of your maternity leave and even beyond in certain circumstances.
Recognising Maternity and Pregnancy Discrimination
Maternity and pregnancy discrimination can manifest in various ways, including:
- Demoting or reassigning duties
- Denying promotions or raises
- Refusing to hire or fire based on pregnancy
- Making derogatory remarks or creating a hostile work environment
- Offering less favourable maternity leave benefits
For a full guide on pregnancy discrimination in the workplace, head to this comprehensive guide on our Redmans Solicitors site.
Raising a Grievance
If you believe you are facing maternity and pregnancy discrimination, here are some steps you can take:
- Gather Evidence: Document any instances of unfair treatment, including emails, memos, witness statements, and dates of incidents.
- Talk to Your Employer: Initiate a conversation with your manager or HR department. Explain your concerns and how you believe your rights have been violated.
- Raise a Grievance: If the initial conversation doesn’t resolve the issue, follow your company’s grievance procedure. This may involve submitting a formal complaint outlining the discriminatory actions and seeking a resolution.
- Seek Support: Don’t hesitate to seek support from unions, legal professionals, or advocacy groups specialising in maternity and pregnancy discrimination. They can offer guidance and representation and help navigate the legal process.
- Consider Legal Action: If your grievance is not addressed internally, you may have the right to pursue legal action against your employer through an employment tribunal.
For legal advice and consultations around maternity and pregnancy discrimination, get in touch with our expert employment lawyers at Redmans Solicitors.
It is important to remember that:
- The burden of proof lies with the employer to demonstrate that any unfavourable treatment was not based on maternity or pregnancy.
- Early conciliation through Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) is often recommended before proceeding to an employment tribunal.
- Time limits apply for filing claims, so it’s crucial to act promptly.
Empowering Yourself Against Maternity and Pregnancy Discrimination
Facing maternity and pregnancy discrimination can be emotionally draining and isolating. However, by understanding your rights, seeking support, and taking action, you can empower yourself and fight for fair treatment in the workplace. Remember, you are not alone. Numerous resources and organisations are available to help you navigate this challenging situation and ensure your voice is heard.
By speaking up and demanding fair treatment, we can collectively contribute to creating a workplace environment where women are valued and supported throughout their motherhood journey, regardless of the “time” their baby arrives. Looking forward, these steps could help reduce maternity and pregnancy discrimination in the workplace.