Pregnant employees and those on maternity leave are specifically protected from discrimination (as well as being protected under general sex discrimination rules) in the UK. The Government is due to launch a consultation on strengthening this protection in light of worrying research that discrimination is still rife in the workplace. Whilst it is prohibited in the UK to dismiss an employee because of her pregnancy/maternity leave, if there are objective reasons which are unrelated, such as a genuine redundancy, a dismissal is possible (but carries a risk of a discrimination allegation).
In some jurisdictions, such as Hong Kong, there is an outright ban on terminating an employee who is pregnant or on maternity leave. In fact, to do so is a criminal offence with liability for up to HK$100,000 fine. Could the UK move towards something similar?
The number of expectant and new mothers forced to leave their jobs had almost doubled to 54,000 since 2005, they heard. Research considered by the MPs also showed that 11% of mothers felt they had been forced out of their jobs, mostly by bad treatment by their employers rather than through direct dismissal or redundancy."This is clearly unacceptable," said the government.