The Equality and Human Rights Commission defines pregnancy as ´the condition of being pregnant or expecting a baby´, while ´maternity´ refers to the period after the birth and is linked to maternity leave in the employment context.
In the non-work context, protection against maternity discrimination is for 26 weeks after giving birth, and this includes treating a woman unfavourably because she is breastfeeding.
The Equality Act 2010 came into force in October 2010 and provides a legal framework to protect the rights of individuals and advance equality of opportunity for all. There are nine ‘protected characteristics’ under the Act including pregnancy and maternity.
The new public sector equality duty in the Act came into force in April 2011. The duty places an obligation on public authorities to take action to eradicate discrimination, proactively promote equality of opportunity, and to foster good relations across relevant protected characteristics.
The Equality Act 2010 provides women protection from pregnancy and maternity discrimination at work and outside of the workplace in areas including higher education and service provision.
Pregnancy and maternity-related discrimination can occur outside of the workplace if a woman is treated unfavorably because:
- of her pregnancy
- she has given birth within the past 26 weeks and, in particular, because she is breastfeeding.
Pregnancy and maternity-related discrimination can occur in employment if a woman is treated unfavorably because:
- of her pregnancy
- of pregnancy-related illness
- she is on compulsory maternity leave, that is, for two weeks or four weeks if she is working in a factory)
- she is exercising her right to take ordinary or additional maternity leave.
For further information please see NHS Forth Valley Maternity Services Section of the web site.