How to avoid workplace maternity discrimination claims
The Citizens Advice Bureau reports that it has seen a 58%* increase in the number of maternity leave queries in the last two years. Organisational culture determines how new and expectant mothers are treated and the culture often comes from the top. What’s the culture in your organisation and is it a culture you’re proud of?
Here are our top tips to support new and expectant mothers:-
Don’t single out pregnant employees or new mothers for redundancy….
Pregnant employees or new mothers are not exempt from being selected for redundancy in a genuine redundancy situation. However, less principled employers sometimes use a “bogus” redundancy as an excuse to dismiss an employee who is pregnant or on maternity leave. This amounts to unfair dismissal and direct pregnancy and maternity discrimination.
Give due consideration to requests for flexible working….
A contentious issue for employers but don’t throw the baby out with the bath water! Although there is no automatic right to part-time working, an unjustified refusal to allow an employee to work part time after having a baby is likely to constitute indirect sex discrimination. Employers do have a legal duty to handle, in a reasonable manner, any requests by employees with at least 26 weeks’ service to move to flexible working.
Managers and employees must not make inappropriate comments about pregnancy as they may amount to harassment.
Ensure there are no Health and safety breaches against pregnant employees or new mothers….
Health and safety legislation makes provision for risk assessments for pregnant employees and new mothers. Employers could receive an outcome of pregnancy and maternity discrimination if they do not abide by these rules. You should always carry out pregnancy and new mother risk assessments.
Don’t punish a woman who is sick during her pregnancy….
Pregnancy-related illness, such as morning sickness, could result in discrimination if the employer treats the employee less favourably. Don’t take pregnancy-related sickness absence into account when dismissing an employee who has reached a certain level of sickness absence.
Communicate with an employee on maternity leave….
Reasonable contact is allowed and it’s a good idea to agree a form of communication before maternity leave commences. You should consult about any proposed pay rises, bonuses and vacancies, redundancies or reorganisation.
Failure to pay an employee on maternity leave properly….
An area that often causes difficulties for employers is what pay and benefits have to be maintained during maternity leave. Employers should work out an employee’s entitlement to statutory pay, not forgetting any entitlement to pay rises and bonuses due. There are online calculators to help with this. Here's an example.
Entitlement to return to the same role following maternity leave…
In any organisation, time passes, things change rapidly and a common issue for an employee returning from maternity leave is finding that her job has changed beyond recognition.
Employers should remember that an employee returning to work after ordinary maternity leave (no more than 26 weeks’ leave) has the right to return to the job she occupied before her maternity leave.
If the employee has taken additional maternity leave (more than 26 weeks’ leave), she has the right to return to her original job unless this is not reasonably practicable, in which case she has the right to return to another suitable job, on terms no less favourable.
If you require help with managing maternity leave or supporting expectant mothers please get in touch with your HR Advisor or call our sister company FusionHR on 01924 827869. Our HR SLA service can help manage flexible working requests and maternity leave, whilst our admin team can help with documentation and payroll adjustments.
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