When we think of discrimination, many different things may come to mind. The first things that come to mind might be race or ethnicity. We are unfortunately well-accustomed to hearing about discrimination that takes place due to someone’s race or ethnicity. It is a far too common occurrence in the U.K.
However, there are other important types of discrimination to be aware of too. Discrimination can take many different forms. Some characteristics that may be targeted include:
Pregnancy is often discriminated against in the workplace and yet it is not often the first thing that comes to people’s minds when they think of discrimination. It is a topic too often forgotten or swept under the carpet.
In this blog, we want to give you more information about pregnancy and maternity discrimination. The more we are informed about the topic, the better we can protect ourselves and others against it. Knowing more about pregnancy and maternity discrimination is beneficial for both employee and employer. So, whatever side you might be on, please keep reading.
What is Discrimination?
Before we talk about maternity discrimination and what you need to know about it, we need to first define what discrimination is.
There are 4 different types of discrimination. We thought they would be best described through different scenarios rather than the more jargon-filled definitions that we might be used to.
- Direct Discrimination: Direct discrimination is the most visible and obvious form of discrimination. Here are some easy-to-spot scenarios:
- A pregnant woman turns up for a job interview. She isn’t taken seriously as a candidate due to her visible pregnancy. She knows she has been rejected for the job before she even leaves the room.
- A pregnant woman who is good at her job is suddenly made redundant after she announces her pregnancy.
- A woman who has two young children is told she won’t be promoted because she is likely to be pregnant again. A man with lower job performance is promoted instead.
- Your job role or position is changed upon your return from maternity leave.
- You are prevented from breastfeeding in the workplace and told to leave if you attempt it in front of colleagues.
- Indirect Discrimination: Indirect discrimination can be harder to spot but it is still discrimination. It is important to be aware of such discrimination and call it out. Some examples include:
- A promotion advert is posted and the language is geared towards men or people without children. It is clear that someone who is pregnant won’t be able to meet the criteria.
- You receive your timetable for the month after announcing your pregnancy and your shifts are much shorter than your colleagues. Your employer doesn’t “want you to get too tired” but you are feeling well and you don’t want the pay cut.
- Pregnant employees’ time off requests or change to working hours requests are denied with no real reason.
- Your attendance is brought up as a problem when you are pregnant.
- Harassment: Harassment during pregnancy or maternity is often considered as direct discrimination. It is treated very seriously by equality law. Scenarios include:
- Since you have been visibly pregnant at work you have been called names by co-workers. They make fun of your belly and poke at your appearance.
- Emails are sent about a pregnant colleague around the office that are malicious in nature.
- You feel bullied out of your job due to your pregnancy.
- A hostile environment is created around pregnancy and any pregnant woman in the office feels unwelcome and unsafe.
- Victimisation: Victimisation occurs when you speak up about discrimination and are treated unfavourably in return. This can include:
- A pregnant woman losing her job because she approached HR about potential discrimination.
- Men in the office make “jokes” and nasty comments to a pregnant colleague because she has expressed concern about inequality.
- You were a shoe-in for promotion at work but once you have filed a complaint about discrimination from a colleague, that promotion suddenly disappears.
- You are moved to a different office or location because of you speaking up about discriminatory practices.
The overall concept can be summed up by saying that if you have been treated unfairly or unfavourably because you are pregnant, could be pregnant, or just have been pregnant, then this is discrimination.
Discrimination can take many forms but all are serious. Knowing what counts as discrimination is an important tool to have. When you know that something is discrimination, then you know to do something about it.
The more we all call out discrimination, the better. We all deserve to live and work in safe and equal environments. Calling out instances where this hasn’t happened is key to making that a reality.
What To Do If You Think You Have Been Discriminated Against
So, with that in mind, you probably want to know what you should do if you think you have been discriminated against or someone else close to you has been.
Here are your options:
- Talk to your management or HR department in work: If you feel comfortable doing so, talking to the higher levels within your own work is a good place to start. Hopefully the instance has been a misunderstanding or miscommunication and can be quickly rectified. Your HR department might be able to offer mediation for involved parties or discipline procedures can be started.
- Call Citizen’s Advice: Citizen’s Advice have lots of great, you guessed it, advice on pregnancy and maternity discrimination. You can check out their resources and call them to discuss any potential instances of discrimination.
- Contact the Equality and Human Rights Commission: If you are in England, Scotland, or Wales, you can contact the Human Rights Commission for help with discrimination. They have lots of guides to help you and you can talk to them directly. It’s great to know more about your rights in instances where they might have been violated. This means you can approach any discrimination cases with the right information behind you. Find out more on their website.
- Look for a new job: If you have been treated unfairly at work, chances are you would like a new job. Whether you pursue the case legally or not. The best thing to do in this scenario is to look for an Equal Opportunities employer that supports and protects women. Working somewhere your rights are upheld is critical when you are pregnant. If you want to find the right employer, you can use Aspiring to Include to find an inclusive one from our list of company profiles. You can also take a look at our live job board. Here you will find jobs posted by such inclusive and accessible employers. Finding the right palace to work can make a world of difference.
Women deserve to be respected, supported, and protected at work. Whether they are pregnant, about to pregnant, or have recently given birth. At Aspiring to Include we want to help make that happen.