.

Pregnancy & Maternity

What the law says

The Equality Act 2010 protects women from discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy and maternity. In employment a woman is protected from discrimination during the period of her pregnancy and during any period of compulsory or additional maternity leave. In non-work cases, including Higher Education, the provision of services, good and facilities, and the provision of recreational or training facilities, a woman is protected from discrimination during the period of her pregnancy and the period of 26 weeks beginning with the day on which she gives birth.

The Act also protects a woman from direct discrimination because she is breast feeding or due to illness suffered as a result of pregnancy, for example a student should not be penalised if they miss coursework deadlines because of pregnancy related illness or appointments.

The Act does not, however, cover indirect discrimination or harassment on the grounds of pregnancy and maternity.

What does the Act cover in relation to employment?

The Act provides protection against direct discrimination and victimisation on the grounds of pregnancy and maternity throughout the whole employment relationship, including:

  • recruitment and selection
  • terms of employment
  • benefits provided during employment and on termination
  • promotion opportunities
  • access to training
  • dismissal (including redundancy)
  • retirement  
  • post termination discrimination and harassment

What does the Act cover in relation to Higher Education?

The Act makes it unlawful for the governing body of a Higher Education Institution (HEI) to discriminate against or victimise a person/student because she is pregnant or has given birth within the last 26 weeks, in any of the following ways:

  • ·in the arrangements it makes for deciding who is offered admission as a student

  • ·in the terms on which it offers to admit the person as a student

  • ·by not admitting the person as a student

  • ·in the way it provides education for the student

  •  in the way it affords the student access to a benefit, facility or service

  •  by not affording the student access to a benefit, facility or service

  • by excluding the student

  • by subjecting the student to any other detriment

HEIs will also need to have appropriate arrangements in place to ensure that a woman is not treated less favourably because she is breastfeeding.

What does the Act cover in relation to the provision of services, goods and facilities?

HEIs provide a range of services to both staff and students, such as childcare services, libraries and careers and employment services, and as such are considered to be service providers.

The Act makes it unlawful to directly discriminate against or victimise a person who is seeking access to or is accessing a service:

  • in the terms of providing the service

  • by terminating the provision of the service

  • by subjecting the service user to any other detriment

What does the Act cover in relation to the provision of recreational or training facilities?

The Act provides protection against direct discrimination and victimisation on the grounds of pregnancy or maternity in the provision of recreational or training facilities, such as sports services or clubs. Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) should not discriminate against or victimise a person in:

  • the arrangements it makes for deciding who is provided with the facilities

  • the terms on which it offers to provide the facilities to the person

  • not accepting the person’s application for provision of the facilities

What types of discrimination does the legislation refer to?

Direct Discrimination - Treating a woman less favourably than others because she is:

  • pregnant

  • has given birth within the last 26 weeks (non-work related cases)

  • on compulsory or additional maternity leave (work-related cases)

  • breastfeeding

Associative Discrimination - Treating people less favourably than others because they are associated with someone who is pregnant or has given birth.

Perceptive Discrimination - Treating a woman less favourably than others because she is perceived, correctly or incorrectly, to be pregnant or to have given birth.

Victimisation - Treating a person less favourably than others because the person has:

  • brought proceedings under the Act;

  • given evidence or information in connection with proceedings under the Act

  • done any other thing for the purposes of or in connection with this Act

  • made an allegation (whether or not express) that there has been a breach of the Act

Protection is not afforded where the person gives false evidence or information or makes an allegation or has given evidence or information in bad faith.

The General Duty

The new public sector Equality Duty is expected to cover all of the protected characteristics apart from marriage and civil partnership and will require public sector bodies to have due regard to the need to:

  • eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation

  • advance equality of opportunity between different groups; and

  • foster good relations between different groups  

The Equality Duty is a duty on public bodies and others carrying out public functions.It ensures that public bodies consider the needs of all individuals in their day to day work – in shaping policy, in delivering services, and in relation to their own employees.

The new Equality Duty supports good decision-making – it encourages public bodies to understand how different people will be affected by their activities so that policies and services are appropriate and accessible to all and meet different people’s needs. By understanding the effect of their activities on different people, and how inclusive public services can support and open up people’s opportunities, public bodies are better placed to deliver policies and services that are efficient and effective. The Equality Duty therefore helps public bodies to deliver the Government’s overall objectives for public services.

What has changed?

The new Equality Duty replaces the three previous public sector equality duties – for race, disability and gender. The new Equality Duty covers the following protected characteristics:

  • age

  • disability

  • gender reassignment

  • pregnancy and maternity

  • race - this includes ethnic or national origins, colour or nationality

  • religion or belief - this includes lack of belief

  • sex

  • sexual orientation 

It also applies to marriage and civil partnership, but only in respect of the requirement to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination.

NEW SPECIFIC DUTIES TO SUPPORT THE GENERAL DUTY

On the 28th June 2011 the Government laid before Parliament for approval the Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) Regulations 2011. These regulations will promote the better performance of the Equality Duty by requiring those public authorities to publish:-

1) Equality objectives, at least every four years
2) Information to demonstrate their compliance with the equality duty, at least annually

The new Equality Duty is designed to reduce bureaucracy while ensuring public bodies play their part in making society fairer by tackling discrimination and providing equality of opportunity for all.

Anual Equality Report 2012 Update on progress with Gender Equality

The University now has a rest room for staff & students for breast feeding.  There is a fridge where milk can be stored. For information on access please contact  j.m.tyrrell@aston.ac.uk

Useful Links

Further information about the Equality Act 2010 and pregnancy and maternity can be found at the following websites:

Equality & Human Rights Commission 

 The Equality Challenge Unit

Advisory, Conciliation & Arbitration Service (ACAS)

Back to top

Last Updated July 2012