Discrimination is rife in the workplace so it’s no surprise the statistics for pregnancy discrimination and retaliation are worrying and still a challenge today.
In many organisations, employers, managers and also workers are guilty of the negative treatment of pregnant women which can commence as soon as they’re aware of the woman’s condition. The discrimination may start with a comment or two at first and if it’s deemed acceptable behaviour, it is likely to continue throughout the pregnancy, maternity leave and on return to work.
Research by Equal Human Rights Commission presents a worrying position on how widespread the discrimination is today.
Findings from a couple of surveys in 2018 suggest one in one in nine mothers were either dismissed or made redundant soon after having their child and on a national scale that’s 54,000 workers out of a job due to maternity discrimination.
The trend goes further with one in five mothers experiencing harassment due to their condition and 10% say they were pressured to not attend antenatal sessions that occurred during work hours. Plus there is also a reluctance to hire mothers with many employers refusing job applications from pregnant women says a New York discrimination attorney.
The law forbids pregnancy discrimination under the civil rights Acts. Everybody deserves equal treatment in the workplace, whether they are pregnant or not.
Here are typical actions that most pregnancy discriminative employers do.
- An employer is refusing to hire pregnant women.
- Demoting or firing employees because they are pregnant.
- Treating a pregnant woman unfavourably or different from the others.
- An employer is refusing to provide health coverage for pregnant employees as well as their spouses.
Pregnancy Discrimination Act
According to the law, it’s an offence to discriminate anybody based on pregnancy or childbirth-related reasons. An employer should not treat you differently from other staff. The following points are your rights under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
- An employer should not reject your application, demote you or fire you because you are pregnant or have childbirth-related issues.
- An employer should not ask you any illegal question during the interview, unlike other applicants.
- An employer should not treat differently employees who are, or may get pregnant. You should continue with your roles as usual. If you are unable to handle the same tasks, for instance, heavy lifting, you are entitled to sick leaves or perhaps task modifications.
- An employer should provide you with health benefits to cover your medical expenses when you are pregnant. The employer should also do so when your spouse is pregnant.
- An employer should not ask you for a pregnant notice.
- An employer should not discriminate employees who have had an abortion or had considered doing it.
Do you have to tell your potential or current employer you are pregnant?
Firstly, an employer should not refuse to hire you because you are pregnant unless you don’t meet the qualifications. An employer should not ask you if you are pregnant or you are planning to have children. So, you may choose to tell him or keep the information for yourself. However, this should not be a consideration during the hiring process.
When it comes to your current employer, you may want to notify him or her in advance, i.e. before you start showing. During maternity, you will need to take time off, so by informing your employer in advance, they can prepare and manage your role in your absence.
Under the law, your condition is no reason for a demotion or being fired. Instead, they should alternate your duties, simplify or modify your duties or give you sick leave.
Will employer compel you to take sick leave or prevent you from performing specific roles?
As long as you can perform your duties, then you can continue in your job. If you’re unable to work then you may decide to take sick leave and return to your role after maternity leave.
Discrimination during pregnancy not only exists, but it’s also still rife in the workplace. For change to happen, you can stand up and be counted with the law on your side.