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Maternity Discrimination Q&A – What You Need to Know

On Friday 27 July, Slater and Gordon held a question and answer session on Twitter with employment lawyer Remziye Ozcan. Remziye answered questions for our audience on Maternity/Sex Discrimination, particularly as it relates to interviews and the workplace following our research that found 1 in 3 bosses in the UK would not consider hiring a woman if they thought she might start a family soon. 

Question One from Slater and Gordon

Who should I speak to in the first instance if I think I’ve been discriminated against in an interview or at work?

Answer One from Remziye Ozcan

Not everyone is aware that the Equality Act does not require any minimum length of employment, or any employment at all in the case of a job applicant, for a discrimination claim to be made. It’s unlawful at all stages - from when a role is advertised.

It is important to get expert legal advice as soon as possible because there is a 3 month time limit.

Question Two from Slater and Gordon

Does my entitlement to Maternity Leave matter if I’ve only just started a new job?

Answer Two from Remziye Ozcan

All employees are entitled to both ordinary maternity leave and additional maternity leave, together totalling 52 weeks' leave, provided they satisfy certain notice requirements. An employee has to give notice to her employer on or before the 15th week before the week she expects her baby (around 6 months) to be born. The notice must state that she is pregnant, the due date and the week she plans to start her maternity leave. 

Question Three from Slater and Gordon

I’m pregnant and applying for jobs but worried if I tell them that they’ll not give me the job. Legally do I have to disclose my pregnancy at interview?

Answer Three from Remziye Ozcan

You shouldn’t be discriminated against on the basis of your pregnancy at recruitment stage. A job applicant doesn’t have to tell the employer during the recruitment process that she is pregnant. There is no legal requirement to do so. You don’t have to tell an employer until latest the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth (about six months’). If you are joining a new employer after the 15th week, the law says you must tell the employer as soon as ‘reasonably practicable’.

Question Four from Slater and Gordon

What behaviour can be classed as Maternity Discrimination at work?

Answer Four from Remziye Ozcan

Mothers-to-be and new mothers can face difficulties including: (1) being dismissed or forced out of their jobs because of their pregnancy and/or maternity, (2) some managers believing mothers-to-be will be able to cope with only a lower level of work, or less work and therefore overlooking them for promotion or taking their roles and responsibilities away and (3) some employers believing new mothers will not be as committed because they have a family and taking their more senior responsibilities away and excluding them.

Question Five from Slater and Gordon

What do hiring managers need to keep in mind about what they should and shouldn’t ask in interviews?

Answer Five from Remziye Ozcan

You shouldn’t be asked questions of a personal nature unrelated to the job and application – for example, if you are pregnant or planning to have children or even about childcare arrangements. Questions at an interview should stick to the clear job description, the skills, qualifications and capabilities needed and someone’s experience. Men and women should be asked the same questions. It’s unlawful to discriminate against prospective employees. Employers should be clear on exactly what is needed for the post so that managers are objective in assessing and selecting candidates.

Question Six from Slater Gordon

My company has no part time staff. Are they obligated to consider my request for flexible working after I return from Maternity Leave or can they refuse?

Answer Six from Remziye Ozcan

If you have worked for your employer continuously for 26 weeks, you have the right to ask to work flexibly, you are likely to qualify as maternity leave counts as continuous service. You might want to reduce hours, change hours or work over fewer days. However, an employer must make sure it does not discriminate and cannot simply refuse a request without fair process or reasons. Your employer must agree to flexible working where it can accommodate, but can turn it down only on specific business grounds defined in the legislation (there are 8 grounds including inability to meet client demand and detrimental impact on performance).

If you have any questions for Remziye that didn’t make the Q&A, you can tweet and follow her on Twitter @RemziyeOzcanLaw. For the latest updates and to join the conversation, follow us on Twitter @SlaterGordonUK using #SGMaternity.  


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