Make a Tribunal claim for direct pregnancy and maternity discrimination

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How to make a Tribunal claim

You can make a Tribunal claim at no cost to the Employment Tribunal, using the ET1 form. Before you submit your claim, you must contact ACAS, the public body who can help to resolve your claim through Early Conciliation. You can read more about this and how to fill in your claim form here.

This guide will walk you through making a direct pregnancy and maternity discrimination claim.

How to complete Section 8.2 of the ET1 form

The ET1 form will ask in section 8.2 for the background and details of your claim. The best way to approach this is to write your Particulars of Claim (called a Paper Apart if you are in Scotland). This is where you lay out what happened, what legal claims you’d like to make and your reasoning. 

This section is the heart of your Tribunal claim and is very important and difficult to change later on, so it’s worth spending some time to make sure it’s clear.

How to create your particulars of claim:

  1. Write your ET1 section 8.2

    You’ll normally do this by creating a separate document called the Particulars of Claim (or Paper Apart in Scotland). This sets out the background and details of your claim. Valla offers step-by-step guidance to help you make sure your claims are clear and laid out in the right way.

  2. Convert the file to Rich Text Format (RTF)

    Convert your file to RTF and attach it to the online ET1 form. If you’re not sure how to do this, you can purchase Valla’s Peace of Mind Check and we will sort this out for you.

  3. Submit your ET1 form

    Wait for the Tribunal to acknowledge your claim. They will also send a copy to the Respondent, who will have 28 days to respond.

Specific things to consider in your direct pregnancy and maternity discrimination claim

Laying out your claim

When you are claiming direct pregnancy and maternity discrimination at Tribunal, you want to clearly argue that you have been treated unfairly because of your pregnancy or because of taking maternity leave. There are various specific rights that apply to pregnancy and maternity discrimination - see Chapter 8 of the Employment Statutory Code of Practice for more information. Some examples of direct pregnancy and maternity discrimination are as follows:

  • An employer denies a pregnant woman training opportunities.
  • An employer demotes an employee because she is on maternity leave.
  • An employer takes into account an employee’s period of absence due to pregnancy-related illness when dismissing her on the grounds of her sickness absence. (Section 18 of the Equality Act 2010 expressly prohibits unfavourable treatment because of illness suffered by a woman because of her pregnancy).

With direct pregnancy and maternity discrimination, your employer can be liable for the acts of its employees, as well as the employees being personally responsible. 

Proving your claim

You don’t need to attach evidence to a Tribunal ET1 claim, but it’s a good idea to back up your claims by mentioning the evidence you intend to use. For direct pregnancy and maternity discrimination claims, people typically refer to evidence such as text messages, emails, letters, meeting notes, medical evidence and witness evidence.

What you can ask for in your direct pregnancy and maternity discrimination claim

If you’re successful in a Tribunal claim, you will be awarded a “remedy”. This mainly includes financial compensation, like loss of earnings. It can also include some non-financial remedies too.

Common remedies people ask for at Tribunal

Some of the key remedies you can ask for at Tribunal are:

  • The money you have lost from being out of work, or working in a lower-paid job.
  • The money that you expect to lose in the future from being out of work, or working in a lower-paid job.
  • Wages that you are owed, including holiday pay and notice pay.

Discrimination-specific remedies

As well as the common remedies that you can ask for, discrimination-specific claims also have the option to include an “injury to feelings” remedy. This is compensation which you can be awarded when you have been hurt or distressed because you have been discriminated against.

Injury to feelings is generally awarded within one of three “Vento bands” depending on severity:

  • for less serious cases - £990 to £9,900
  • for more serious cases - £9,900 to £29,600
  • for the most serious cases - £29,600 to £49,300

For example, whilst Jamila was on maternity leave, she asked her employer if she might be able to return to work doing only 1.5 or 2 days a week to begin with. Her employer assumed that this meant she wouldn’t be able to work full time, but didn’t properly discuss with her the difficulties for the business of having a part-time worker. Nor did they give her the chance to offer alternative options. At no point did Jamila say she would never be able to return to full-time work, but her employer just assumed this was the case, and dismissed her whilst she was on maternity leave. She was successful in a claim for direct maternity discrimination, as well as claims for automatic unfair dismissal and unpaid holiday pay. She was awarded £12,000 for injury to feelings. 

Real direct pregnancy and maternity discrimination cases you can learn from

Summary: a digital content strategist informed her boss that she was pregnant. He reacted negatively and from then on, changed his behaviour towards her. Ultimately, she was dismissed - her employer said this was because of serious concerns about her performance, which they said amounted to gross misconduct.  

Total award: £25,131.06

Outcome: the Tribunal found that her dismissal amounted to direct pregnancy and maternity discrimination. They also found that a number of the employer's actions leading up to her dismissal and her appeal against it also amounted to direct pregnancy and maternity discrimination. Her claim for automatic unfair dismissal was also successful.

Summary: a nanny, who was employed by a child's mother and worked at their house, was about to reach the end of her probation. She informed her employer that she was pregnant. Her employer dismissed her later the same day. 

Total award: £10,826.24

Outcome: The Tribunal found that this was direct pregnancy and maternity discrimination. She had also made a claim for automatic unfair dismissal, but the Tribunal just considered the discrimination claim, as this related to the same issue (of dismissal).

Further reading

Related Tribunal claims 

If you’ve faced direct pregnancy and maternity discrimination at work, there are potentially a number of other discrimination claims that could apply to you:

  • Victimisation - where you’ve been treated badly because you made or helped with a pregnancy or maternity discrimination complaint.
  • Harassment (note that you can’t claim for pregnancy and maternity harassment, but you may be able to make a claim for sex harassment) - where you’ve been subjected to behaviour that relates to your sex and is unwanted. This behaviour must make you feel, or be intended to make you feel intimidated, degraded, or offended.
  • Indirect discrimination - (note that you can’t claim for indirect pregnancy and maternity discrimination, but you may be able to make a claim for indirect sex discrimination) - where a company policy or practice negatively affects people of a particular sex.
  • Sexual harassment - where you have experienced unwanted conduct of a sexual nature, or been treated less favourably because you have either submitted to or rejected sexual harassment, or harassment related to sex or gender reassignment. 
  • Failure to make reasonable adjustments (note that this only applies to disability) - where your employer has failed to make a reasonable change to help you to do your job, or apply for a job, to reduce the impact of your disability.
  • Discrimination arising from disability (note that this only applies to disability) - where you’ve been treated unfairly because of something connected to your disability rather than the disability itself. 

You may also be able to make a claim for unfair dismissal, constructive dismissal or another type of employment law. You can download your free Action Toolkit to find out more.