The Equality Act states that you must not be discriminated against because of your pregnancy or period of maternity.
This means you should not be disadvantaged or treated unfavourably when seeking work or in work where this directly relates to your pregnancy. Or because you are breastfeeding or have recently given birth, which is typically referred to as maternity.
This includes any discrimination that may occur due to a pregnancy-related illness.
When in work during pregnancy, you have specific rights to additional health, safety and welfare protections to protect you and avoid any form of discrimination.
Your protection against discrimination lasts for a specific period of time, which starts when you become pregnant. This is called the protected period.
If you have the right to maternity leave, the protected period ends when your maternity leave ends or when you return to work, if this is earlier.
If you don’t have the right to maternity leave, the protected period ends two weeks after your child was born.
If you’re treated unfavourably after this, you could still be protected against discrimination because of your sex. This protection arises from the protected characteristic of sex.
It is generally only employees who are entitled to maternity leave. Equity members working in the entertainment industry are not routinely entitled to maternity leave. But everyone’s situation is different so you should check your contract and seek advice from Equity on your entitlement, or not, to maternity leave.
Where you do have a right to maternity leave there are specific protections from discrimination while taking this leave and as a result of taking leave. Or because you are attempting to take the leave you are entitled to.
We have successfully won many cases on behalf of members in relation to pregnancy and maternity discrimination.
But the law is complex and you need to raise concerns quickly to enable a speedy resolution of the issue. A key aspect of this is that Equity members typically have the employment status of ‘worker’ when in work. This means you have different rights during pregnancy and maternity to those who are ‘employees’. Particularly in relation to issues of leave, pay and welfare benefits. Another key aspect is that Equity members work under varied contractual terms across the country, so you must check your rights with us.
If you undertake work outside the entertainment industry and have the status of employee when pregnant and during maternity, your employment rights can be seen on the Maternity Action website.
Circumstances when being treated differently to pregnancy and maternity may be lawful
As with other protected characteristics, there are scenarios where a producer or engager may engage in activity where differential treatment based on pregnancy or maternity is lawful. This could be where there is a casting for someone with personal experience of pregnancy and maternity to ensure authentic portrayal of a specific character. Find out more about occupational requirements on the ACAS website.
There is a statutory duty on employers and producers to undertake a specific risk assessment of a pregnant worker. So there may be circumstances, particularly related to the health, safety and welfare of the pregnant worker, where a restriction is placed on the type of work that can be done. Or consideration may be given to whether they can continue working or need suspending from their role.
It's essential you speak to us (LINK to contact page) if you believe your ability to gain work, or stay in work, has been negatively affected because of your pregnancy or maternity
We are proudly affiliated to Maternity Action, the UK’s leading charity and advocacy body for better employment, social security and healthcare provision for pregnant workers. Maternity Action brings together trade unions and allied organisation in the Alliance for Maternity Rights.Through this, we support campaigns to end the discrimination faced by pregnant workers.
We collaborated with Maternity Action to create this that outlines the primary pregnancy, maternity and welfare rights of Equity members as self-employed workers:
Our work to combat pregnancy and maternity discrimination
Protecting pregnant workers and new mums at work
To make sure members are aware of their statutory rights, we regularly contribute to relevant public speaking events. This has included a recent TUC webinar on the statutory duty on all employers and producers to undertake a specific risk assessment of any worker who is pregnant.
Supporting campaigns for nursery and childcare provision in the industry
We campaign for the provision of nursery and childcare provision across the entertainment industry. This sees us work with partner organisations including Parents in the Performing Arts (PiPA), The Wonder Works and Raising Films It also includes support for the Keeping Families in Film campaign that sought to work with production companies to offer affordable, accessible on-set childcare.
Supporting Antonia Kinlay’s case
We financially supported the case of an Equity member who was denied the chance to be cast in the second series of a production they had originally featured in when they disclosed their pregnancy. The member, Antonia Kinley, was successful in her legal claim for discrimination. Read more about the case in our news section.