A recent survey of senior decision makers in the private sector demonstrated worrying insight into potential employer attitudes in respect to Pregnancy and Maternity, in this article we focus on how you can avoid discriminatory behavior during recruitment (and beyond).
What does the law say?
The Equality Act 2010 lists ‘pregnancy and maternity’ as one of its nine protected characteristics offering protection from when the woman becomes pregnant until they return from maternity leave. Although the law is specific in the protected period a woman can still raise a claim outside this period to challenge a decision that was made during the protected period. There is also a risk of a claim of sex discrimination (Sex is also a protected characteristic).
To claim sex discrimination, the individual must demonstrate that she has been treated less favourably than someone of the opposite sex, however, to show pregnancy and maternity discrimination she only has to show unfavourable treatment, there is no requirement for this to be in comparison to another.
The Equality Act 2010 has no qualifying period and covers potential employees as well, therefore, ensuring your recruitment practices are free of discriminatory behaviour is critical to avoid tribunal cases and to protect your employer brand.
The current statistics show that a woman who is dismissed because she is pregnant or turned down for a job on the basis of being pregnant will receive an average award of £10’000 for injury to feelings plus any financial losses suffered (which may include covering a gap in employment based on the likelihood of getting another job).
Here are our top tips for avoiding discriminatory behaviour:
- Never ask a woman if she is pregnant during a job interview (the research showed that 60% of employers thought a woman should have to disclose she is pregnant before accepting a job, however, there is no requirement for the individual to do this)
- Never ask a candidate if they have children or are planning to have any. You could ask a general question such as ‘do you have any commitments which might affect your ability to meet the requirements of this role? however its important this question is asked of every candidate.
- Prepare a set of questions for each position you interview for and ask them of every candidate. This is important to be able to make a fair decision but it also protects against discrimination. Ensure accurate notes of each interview are taken and you create a pack for each candidate so you can demonstrate why you did not offer them the position (This also allows you to give the successful candidate feedback when they join you).
- If you use a recruitment agency never ask them to sift based on a protected characteristic such as sex or age. If your recruiter asks your preference in relation to these elements ask yourself if they are the right recruiter for you to work with?
- If you become aware the individual is pregnant or has children you must not use that information to make your decision.
Women are legally required to let you know they are pregnant 15 weeks before the start of the week she is due to give birth or ASAP if it is later than that date already. Once you are aware of a pregnancy you must undertake appropriate risk assessments as per your maternity policy.
If you have any questions concerning anything to do with discrimination and pregnancy please contact us on 01325 288299 (option 2)