'Pregnancy and maternity discrimination whilst studying is a big problem' writes Helen Bryce
Pregnant whilst in education:
On our very first meeting as a Young Mums Collective it became apparent there was something huge missing from current conversations around motherhood under the age of 25. Pregnancy and maternity discrimination whilst studying is a big problem.
The stories we heard were shocking; from women being told they would have to just abandon their course through to a Mum being asked to enter via the back of the building rather than through the usual front entrance.
The fact is your school, college or higher education institution must not discriminate against you because you are pregnant, have a baby who is 26 weeks or under or are breastfeeding. Basically this means that they cannot treat you worse than they would someone else because of these characteristics. This might include something like making a decision on admission through to applying a rule or way of doing things that means it has a worse impact on you than others without it.
Within the workplace you have rights around antenatal appointments and maternity leave (see our videos on Knowing your Legal Rights for more info) and although this isn’t exactly the same whilst studying (you have no freestanding rights to these things) they could still be linked if you feel that you are being treated ‘unfavourably’ due to requiring time off.
Below is a really excellent guide to knowing your rights and also how to work in conjunction with your school or university to ensure that your needs are met during this period. There is lots of good advice on the kind of support you should expect, what kind of adjustments would be reasonable and the responsibilities your education institution has towards you. It is also a great guide for you to actually print out and talk through with your teacher or tutor. This might be the first time they have had to support someone who is pregnant so having some guidance may well be greatly appreciated:
Having spoken to a barrister who specialises in education cases it’s clear that there is very little case law available on this. Which basically means that there haven’t been many (if any) cases brought to court against Universities or schools based on pregnancy or maternity discrimination.
We believe there are probably many reasons for this from a lack of knowledge on legal rights through to the court fees involved and the confidence to challenge an institution during a time which we know is really full on (for many of us just getting through the day is a test never mind raising a legal claim).
However, we know this is happening so want women to know they can speak up and have a place to come for support.
The best place to start if you feel you have been a victim of discrimination is to make a formal complaint. Your education institute should have a procedure to follow for this and of course avoiding legal action is often in everyone’s best interests. Find out what you need to do, put something in writing and be open and honest about the situation.
Do know however that if things don’t change, the issues aren’t resolved or you feel that things have already gone too far you are legally protected. You can make a claim under the Equality Act so get some further advice.
Pregnant then Screwed has a free legal advice line, which doesn’t just support those with workplace based discrimination cases but anyone who feels they are facing pregnancy or maternity discrimination. The details are below:
Please call: 0161 930 5300
Monday to Friday 9am – 6pm
Or you if you’d prefer then send over an email: Advice@pregnantthenscrewed.com