Labour Research January 2012

Law Queries


Q. Our member is pregnant. For some time she has been suffering from bad bouts of morning sickness, and because of this her standard of work has been quite poor. Her manager has been unsympathetic, and the employer is now commencing disciplinary proceedings against her. We have tried resolving this through the grievance procedure, but to no avail. This situation is having a bad impact on our members’ health and we want to take action — might she have a legal claim?

A. The Employment Rights Act 1996 and section 18 of the Equality Act 2010 outlaw discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy and maternity.

Treating a woman less favourably because her performance at work is weaker due to the fact that she is suffering from a pregnancy-related condition, such as morning sickness, is unlawful.

This type of unlawful treatment amounts to direct discrimination (as opposed to indirect discrimination).

Direct discrimination cannot be justified by the employer — which means that the intention or motivation of the employer will be irrelevant in any tribunal’s assessment.

That is to say, for your member to succeed in any tribunal claim, she need only demonstrate that the employer knew, suspected or believed that she was pregnant, and as a result of that, treated the individual less favourably.