Pregnancy and Maternity

The Act includes pregnancy and maternity as a protected characteristic that applies to both staff and students. This protection is afforded to female employees during the period of pregnancy and any statutory maternity leave to which they are entitled.  To claim pregnancy or maternity discrimination a female student must show that she has been treated unfavourably because of her pregnancy or maternity.

Example:

A woman applies for a place on a degree programme, and mentions that she is pregnant. She is subsequently refused a place, and is told that there are concerns about her attendance and completion of the course due to her pregnancy. Although the refusal is because of these reasons, the effective cause of that assessment is her pregnancy and it would therefore be unlawful pregnancy discrimination.
Example:

If an employer fails to consult a woman about threatened redundancy because she is absent on maternity leave, this will be unlawful discrimination.
Example:

A student who has recently given birth is denied the opportunity to undertake a PhD which involves overseas research because the university believes it will be too difficult for her to travel and complete the research with a small baby. This may be unlawful pregnancy and maternity discrimination based on a stereotype.
Example:

An employer dismisses an employee on maternity leave shortly before she is due to return to work because the member of staff covering her absence is regarded as a better performer. Had the employee not been absent on maternity leave she would not have been sacked. Her dismissal is therefore unlawful, even if performance was a factor in the employer's decision-making.

The Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Team (email: equality-diversity@bristol.ac.uk or tel: 0117 33 18087) can provide specific advice to colleagues on this area of equality as it applies to staff or students.

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