Possible pregnancy discrimination

I work as a beauty therapist and laser technician for a spa and feel I am being discriminated against due to my pregnancy. I’ve been working there since February and from the beginning I had lots of problems with the manager but had to carry on because I needed the job. Now, after finding out that I’m pregnant, she is still trying to give me problems and saying lots of bad things about me. I was called into the owner’s office and asked in an angry way what I want from them and also that it is better for me to give notice and to leave the company because even if I continue to work I won’t be able to manage because it is a very busy place and they won’t accept me being off sick because the company is losing money.
I also mentioned that my work as a laser therapist is like factory line work. I have to do treatments in a certain time and sometimes have no time to drink water or to have a break.  I managed to do this work, but now because I’m pregnant I can’t do it the same because I’m more tired, sick and also the doctor discovered some infection in my body and put me on a sick leave for two weeks. They have given me two options: to leave or to work on beauty, but if I don’t manage to do it well they say there is going to be a problem. What are my rights?

Pregnancy Discrimination Act photo


Employer obligations

Your employer should hold a risk assessment with you to ensure that the work you are doing proves no risk to you or your unborn child. If the work you are carrying out is long and laborious then they are obliged to look at lighter or alternative duties during this difficult time. If there is no alternative work available then your employer might need to look at medical suspension.

The Working Time Regulations states that all employees are entitled to a 20-minute break if they work six hours or more each day.  Employees should ensure that this break is taken.


If your manager is insulting or discriminating then this should be raised as a formal grievance through the statutory grievance procedures.  This grievance should be dealt with by the owner. The company has a duty of care to all employees, especially pregnant ones.

If your doctor has given you a sick note then you should remain off sick for the duration of the certificate. As long as you earn £112 per week (the lower earnings limit) then you are entitled to receive statutory sick pay. This is currently £88.45 per week. Your employer cannot stop you from going off sick if you are not fit to be in work and certainly if you have been signed off sick by your doctor. SSP can be payable for a period of up to 28 weeks.

Maternity leave and benefits

You will be entitled to maternity leave, which can commence 11 weeks prior to the date of expected child birth. When the baby is due and your earnings during the qualifying period will determine whether you are entitled to statutory maternity benefit. The qualifying period is the eight-week period before the 15 weeks before the expected date of child birth). Maternity benefit is currently £139.58 per week.

As long as you qualify for maternity benefit the first six weeks of maternity leave are payable at 90 per cent of your earnings for the first six weeks; 33 weeks at the statutory maternity benefit rate and the final 13 weeks of maternity leave are unpaid.

If you remains off sick up to the fourth week before the due date of child birth then your employer can insist that maternity leave is commenced.

*Lesley Banks assisted in answering this question.

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