Discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy and maternity under the Equality Act 2010

What does the Act prohibit?

The Equality Act 2010 prohibits direct discrimination and victimisation on the grounds of pregnancy and maternity.

What is direct discrimination?

Direct discrimination occurs where a person treats another person less favourably than he or she treats or would treat others on grounds of pregnancy and/ or maternity. This includes the less favourable treatment of a woman who is breast-feeding.

Indirect discrimination and harassment are not prohibited by the Act. However, such conduct could amount to direct discrimination.

What is victimisation?

Victimisation occurs where a person is subjected to a detriment by reason of the fact that he has (or it is believed that he has or may) carried out one of the following acts:

  • brought or given evidence or information in proceedings brought under the Act;

  • the doing of something for the purposes of or in connection with the Act.

  • made an allegation that a person has contravened the Act.

However, the giving of false evidence or information, or the making of a false allegation is not protected by the Act if it is given or made in bad faith.

In what circumstances does the Act apply?


The Act applies to all aspects of employment including recruitment, terms and conditions of employment, training, promotions and transfers, bonuses, dismissals, disciplinary matters and redundancy.

A woman is protected from the beginning of the pregnancy (or when suspected) and until the end of her maternity leave or when she returns to work (if earlier) and cannot be discriminated against as a result of pregnancy related illness, absence during compulsory maternity leave and absence during any additional maternity leave to which she is entitled.

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For more information on:

  • Other situations
  • How is the Act enforced?