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Avoiding maternity/pregnancy discrimination

Most employers are familiar with the fact that maternity and pregnancy discrimination are deemed to be ‘protected characteristics’ under the Equality Act 2010 (“EQA”) and surprisingly a recent survey of 500 managers (conducted by Slater and Gordon) highlighted a third of managers would rather employ a man in his 20s or 30s over a woman of the same age for fear of footing the maternity leave bill the woman to have a child – or worse, children.

Furthermore, 40% admitted they are wary of hiring a woman of childbearing age or hiring a woman with a child for junior or senior roles. 44% of respondents also cited concerns over the financial burden to their businesses of maternity leave.

The above position may of course change once shared parental leave is introduced in April 2015, where men as well as women will be eligible to take leave to look after new arrivals.

In the interim the survey raises the issue of how employers can avoid subconsciously discriminating against a female employee when they are pregnant or returning from maternity leave?

Here are a few tips for confused members of management:

1.     Once you have received confirmation of an employee’s pregnancy ensure you carry out a risk assessment.

2.     Pregnant employees and those on maternity leave should be kept up-to-date with organisational changes including redundancies, restructures and new job opportunities in their departments.  

3.     Allow pregnant employees to attend antenatal appointments during working hours without making them feel ‘guilty’,

4.     Wherever possible allow an employee returning from maternity leave back into their contractual role. Where that is not possible, commence consultation prior to their return.

5.     Deal with any flexible working applications fairly and properly.

As always if I can provide you with any further assistance on maternity, pregnancy or any other form of discrimination, please do not hesitate to contact me for a free consultation on 0113 350 4030 orsamira.cakali@scesolicitors.co.uk.

Please note that the information in this blog is to provide information of general interest in a summary manner and should not be construed as individual legal advice. Readers should consult with SCE Solicitors or other professional counsel before acting on the information contained here. 

Samira Cakali

Samira Cakali is a pragmatic and approachable solicitor advocate with extensive contentious and non-contentious experience in the fields of employment law as well as civil litigation, within a range of commercial businesses from SME’s to multinationals as well as senior executives.

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