Can an employer maternity scheme be changed once I announce my pregnancy?

A few months ago a colleague of mine announced her pregnancy at work. Three weeks ago I announced mine and now my boss told us the maternity policy will be changed for both of us. Can an employer do that?
There is nothing in my employment contract. It just says you “should inform us asap to discuss your rights”.

To what extent your employer can unilaterally change the maternity policy will depend on whether or not it is contractual. It may be contractual even if not contained within your written Contract of Employment, for example, if it has become contractual via custom and practice.

If contractual, your employer can only change key terms, such as how much you are paid during maternity leave after consultation with you and with your agreement. Ultimately, if you did not agree, they would either have to impose the change (and risk a claim for constructive dismissal from you and/or your colleague) or terminate your existing contract and offer you another on new terms.

Arguably, even if the policy is not contractual, imposing a change so soon after you and your colleague have announced your pregnancies is evidence that they have done so only because you are pregnant. This would be unfavourable treatment because of your pregnancy and therefore unlawful discrimination.

You should raise your concerns with your employer, perhaps informally in the first instance. If you are not able to reach agreement, you should raise a formal grievance. Ultimately, you may need to complain to an Employment Tribunal if your employer does not agree to honour the existing policy. You should bear in mind that there are very short time limits of only 3 months to bring a claim. You should seek specific advice before taking that step.

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