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Equality Law

Equality Act 2010

Protected characteristic

Pregnancy and maternity is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 and applies to England, Scotland and Wales.

Education

Unlawful discrimination can occur against a student because of her pregnancy or because she has given birth if

  • The student is treated unfavourably because of her pregnancy.
  • Within 26 weeks of the day of giving birth the student is treated unfavourably because she has given birth; this also applies in cases of miscarriage, still birth and neonatal death provided more than 24 weeks of the pregnancy has elapsed.
  • The student is treated unfavourably because she is breastfeeding and the child is less than 26 weeks old; if the child is more than 26 weeks old, unfavourable treatment because of breastfeeding is likely to constitute sex discrimination.

Employment

It is unlawful discrimination to treat a woman unfavourably because of her pregnancy or a related illness, or because she is exercising, has exercised or is seeking or has sought to exercise her right to maternity leave.

Public sector equality duty

Pregnancy and maternity is included in the public sector duty under the Equality Act 2010 which means we have to have due regard to the need to

  • Eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct that is prohibited by or under the Act.
  • Advance equality of opportunity between persons who share a relevant characteristic and persons who do not share it.
  • Foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not it.

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, pregnancy and maternity is a protected characteristic under the Sex Discrimination (Northern Ireland) Order 1976 and provides protection against discrimination and harassment. Whilst not explicitly listed as a characteristic to which the public sector duties apply in Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 (related to promoting equality of opportunity), it is seen in many respects as being covered by the sex equality provisions.