Equal Opportunities Commission


Know Your Rights (Pregnancy Discrimination)

Know Your Rights (Pregnancy Discrimination)

Are you being treated unfairly at work because you are pregnant? The Sex Discrimination Ordinance (SDO) protects pregnant workers and pregnant women applying for jobs.

Have Any of These Things Ever Happened to You At Work?

  • You did not get hired because you were pregnant.

  • You got fired or laid off because you were pregnant.

  • You received less favourable treatment after you notified your employer of your pregnancy.

  • You got turned down for a promotion or transfer because you were pregnant.

  • You were not given maternity benefits because you are not married (under marital status discrimination).

You are not alone. Each year, many women experience pregnancy discrimination and lodge complaints with the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC). Pregnancy discrimination is not just upsetting. It is unlawful.

You are Protected by the Sex Discrimination Ordinance

You are protected against pregnancy discrimination by the Sex Discrimination Ordinance. Pregnancy discrimination is a civil offence under the law.

Under the law, employers are not allowed to:

  • Refuse to hire a woman because of pregnancy.

  • Limit a worker's transfers or training options because she is pregnant.

  • Fire or force a worker to leave because she is pregnant.

  • Fire a woman on return from maternity leave.

  • Take away credit for service because of maternity leave.

What Can You Do If You Are Discriminated Against?

  1. Write down what happened.
    Write down the date, time and place of the incident as soon as possible. Include what was said and who was there. Keep a copy of these notes at home. They will be useful if you decide to file a complaint.

  2. Get emotional support from friends and family.
    It can be very upsetting to feel you have been treated unfairly at work. Take care of yourself. Think about what you want to do. Get help to do it.

  3. Talk to your union representative if you are represented by a union.

  4. Talk to someone from an NGO women's organisation.

  5. Talk to your employer.
    Your employer may have an equal opportunity officer or a way for you to file a "Complaint". Check your employee handbook or talk to the personnel department.

  6. Find out how other pregnant employees have been treated.
    Talk to other women who may have had trouble at work because they were pregnant.

  7. Keep doing a good job.

  8. Keep a record of your work.
    Keep copies at home of your job evaluations and any letters or memos that show that you did a good job. Your boss may criticise your job performance later on in order to defend his or her act of discrimination.

  9. Lodge a complaint with the EOC.
    The Commission was set up to protect you. You can call us at 2511-8211.

  10. Find out more about your legal rights.
    You can talk with a lawyer or file a law suit in the District Court.

You Can Stop Pregnancy Discrimination

Many women have fought discrimination and have improved their working lives. The first step is to know your rights under the law. You can:

  • Bring suit in the District Court.

  • Lodge a complaint with the EOC and resolve the problem through conciliation.
    Settlement agreement could be an end to the behaviour; a letter of apology; for the company to establish an equal opportunities policy; or for financial compensation.

  • Apply for legal assistance if conciliation is not successful.

Invite the EOC to come and give talks to your staff club or call the Commission and ask to join their scheduled talks.

Where to Get Help?

The EOC is there to help you. There are educational materials on discrimination laws such as "DDO and I", "SDO and I", "FSDO and I". A series of "Know Your Rights" in Sexual Harassment, Pregnancy Discrimination, and other areas are also available.