Law guide: Workplace

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Pregnant workers: dismissal and discrimination

Pregnant workers: dismissal and discrimination

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You must not be treated less favourably because you are pregnant. If you are then you may claim sex discrimination. Such treatment includes dismissal.

For more information, see our 'Sex discrimination and equal pay' section

If you are dismissed or selected for redundancy then this will be automatically unfair if the reason behind the decision is solely or mainly:

  • For a reason relating to your pregnancy or maternity leave
  • Because you tried to assert your right to paid time off for antenatal care

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

For more information, see our 'Employees, workers and the self-employed' section.

It amounts to unlawful sex discrimination if an employer:

  • Treats a pregnant worker less favourably for a reason relating to her pregnancy
  • Dismisses or selects a pregnant worker for redundancy solely or mainly for a reason relating to her pregnancy
  • Dismisses or selects a pregnant employee for redundancy solely or mainly because she tried to assert her right to paid time off for antenatal care
  • Refuses to interview or employ a job applicant solely or mainly on the grounds that she is pregnant or because it is believed that she may be, or may become, pregnant.

This type of discrimination can never be justified by an employer.

As pregnancy-related dismissals are discriminatory, a pregnant employee may claim unfair dismissal and also unlawful sex discrimination. While there is a limit on the amount of compensation a tribunal can award for unfair dismissal, there is no limit in cases of unlawful discrimination.