Your rights if you are pregnant or on maternity leave

You must not refuse to employ a woman because she is pregnant, on maternity leave or because she has (or has had) an illness related to her pregnancy.

Equality law does not say that a woman applying for a job with you has to tell you that she is pregnant. This is because you must not base your decision about whether or not to employ her on whether she is pregnant but on whether she has the skills to do the job. If a woman does not tell you that she is pregnant and you give her the job, you must not dismiss her when she tells you about her pregnancy.

For example:

A woman applies for a job as a training instructor. On the basis of her application form and her interview, the employer decides she is the best person for the job and offers the job to her. She has just discovered she is pregnant and tells the employer this when she accepts the job offer. If the employer changes their mind and withdraws the job offer, this would be direct discrimination because of pregnancy and cannot be justified.

You can find more help with this situation in the Commission’s New and expectant parents toolkit

Nor should you ask a woman whether she intends to have children, whatever her age or marital status or even if you think she might be pregnant. This is not something that you should take into account in deciding whether a person has the skills needed for a particular job.

If you ask these questions, the woman you are asking may think the only reason you want to know is so that you can discriminate against her. If you do not offer her the job after asking these questions, you put yourself at risk of a claim for sex discrimination.

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Last Updated: 15 Jul 2010