Guide

Pregnancy at work

Pregnant workers, dismissal and discrimination

You must not treat a worker unfairly because she is pregnant. This may result in a claim of sex discrimination. Such unfair treatment includes dismissal.

Dismissal

It is an automatically unfair dismissal if you dismiss - or select for redundancy - an employee solely or mainly:

Only employees can claim unfair dismissal, but all workers can claim unlawful sex discrimination if they are dismissed or treated unreasonably for a reason relating to their pregnancy.

Sex discrimination

It amounts to unlawful sex discrimination if you:

  • treat a pregnant worker unfairly for a reason relating to her pregnancy
  • dismiss - or select for redundancy - a pregnant worker solely or mainly for a reason relating to her pregnancy
  • dismiss - or select for redundancy - a pregnant employee solely or mainly because she tried to assert her right to paid time off for antenatal care - see employees' right to paid time off for antenatal care
  • refuse to interview or employ a job applicant solely or mainly on the grounds that she is pregnant (or you believe that she may be, or may become, pregnant)

You can never justify this type of discrimination.

As pregnancy-related dismissals are discriminatory, it's likely that a pregnant employee would not only claim unfair dismissal but also unlawful sex discrimination. There is a limit on the amount of compensation a tribunal can award for unfair dismissal but not for unlawful discrimination.

A worker would only be able to claim unlawful sex discrimination, but there is still no limit on any tribunal compensation they might receive.

Download Equality Commission and Labour Relations Agency employer guidance on pregnancy and maternity at work (PDF, 3.25MB).