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Pregnancy and maternity: non-work case and work case are protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010.

This safeguards women from discrimination or unfair treatment during the time of their pregnancy, maternity leave (in an employment context) or for 26 weeks after the baby's birth (in a non-employment context). 

Particularly for female students, the Equality and Human Right Act Commission(EHRC) have provided Equality Act 2010 Technical Guidance on Further and Higher Education  which explicitly condemns direct and indirect discrimination against female students due to pregnancy and/or maternity. According to the guidance: 

"It is discrimination to treat a female student unfavorably because:  

  • she is, or has been, pregnant   
  • she has given birth, and the unfavorable treatment occurs within a period of 26 weeks beginning with the day on which she gave birth, or  
  • she is breastfeeding, and the unfavorable treatment occurs within the period of 26 weeks beginning with the day on which she gave birth.  

Outside the 26-week period, she may be protected by the sex discrimination provisions." 

 In recent years, we have seen demographic changes in the student population at UK universities. There has been an increase in mature and part-time students, which means that more students are likely to become pregnant or have a child during their studies. It is therefore essential that all universities address their legal responsibility to protect students from pregnancy- and maternity-related discrimination at any point during their studies. This might include: developing support mechanisms which ensures facilities meet students’ requirements, supporting students through pregnancy related absence and return to study, and supporting students who are new parents. 

There are areas on campus such as the Dolce Vita and the Commuter Lounge where staff and students can feed their babies. The university is actively seeking out a space which can be converted into a breastfeeding room, with a small fridge for storing milk. 

Discrimination of any kind based on pregnancy or maternity are prohibited under Equality Act 2010 and is not tolerated at St Mary's.  

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