Work Advice: Your Rights as a Pregnant Worker

As a pregnant worker, it is unlawful to be treated unfairly in your employment because of your pregnancy.

Are you feeling nervous about telling work that you’re pregnant? It’s completely up to you when you tell your boss and colleagues about your pregnancy. Most pregnant people prefer to wait until after 12 weeks to let their employer know they’re hapū, often once the risk of miscarriage is much lower and they have shared the news with their family and friends first. But if you are suffering from severe morning sickness or tiredness, you may choose to tell them earlier.

According to the New Zealand Human Rights Commission, ‘pregnancy discrimination is a form of sex discrimination under the Human Rights Act. It may be unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee or a job applicant because she is pregnant or because it is assumed she may become pregnant in the future’.

It is unlawful to be discriminated against, because of your pregnancy, in the following ways:

  • Treated less favourably than someone else.
  • Refused employment or promotion, dismissed or made redundant.
  • Subjected to derogatory or insulting remarks about your pregnancy that have a negative impact on you.
  • Excluded from training, work functions or other benefits.
  • Transferred to another job without consultation (unless there are valid medical or safety reasons for the transfer).
  • Demoted, have your seniority reduced or continuity of service cancelled.

If you feel that you have been treated unfairly because of your pregnancy, you can:

  • Raise your concerns with your manager or your company’s human resources department.
  • Contact a lawyer for advice.
  • Make a complaint to the Human Rights Commission – they provide a free and confidential mediation service. InfoLine phone: 0800 496 877.

In New Zealand, pregnant employees are legally entitled to up to 10 days of unpaid special leave to take time off for pregnancy-related reasons such as attending medical appointments like LMC check-ups, scans, or attending antenatal classes. However, you may wish to take special leave for other pregnancy-related reasons and you are entitled to do so.