Policy On Pregnancy And Human Rights In The Workplace In Canada

Women are valued employees in the workplace who are entitled to equality, dignity, respect of their needs when thy decide o become pregnant, while pregnant and when returning to resume work following a pregnancy-related absence. There is a Policy On Pregnancy And Human Rights in the work place in Canada which supports pregnant women and securing their jobs in the process. See below for details.


This policy will assist employers, unions, and employees under federal jurisdiction to better understand their legal rights, obligations, and duties regarding pregnancy-related discrimination issues.

The policy also explains some of the employer benefits of providing respectful and inclusive workplaces for pregnant employees, identify potentially discriminatory practices, and offer practical solutions.


The Canadian Human Rights Act (the Act) forbids discrimination related to pregnancy. Pregnancy-related discrimination is seen as a form of sex discrimination, because only women can become pregnant. Discriminatory practices related to pregnancy, such as negative treatment, refusal to hire or promote, termination of employment, or harassment, are against the law under this Act.

Pregnancy in the workplace is a fundamental human rights issue of equality of opportunity between both sex, and women should not suffer negative consequences in the workplace simply because they are pregnant. In the case where job functions and workplace rules may affect a pregnant employee differently than other employees, adjustments to working conditions may be required to reduce or eliminate discriminatory effects.


This policy applies to all employers under federal jurisdiction subject to the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Employment Equity Act, and to the unions and employees of these organizations. This includes federal government departments, agencies and Crown corporations, banks, inter-provincial transportation companies (including trucking, bus, rail, and air), telecommunications service providers, and First Nations Bands. Those working at these places are protected from discrimination in the workplace. This protection also extends to full-time, part-time, probationary, temporary and contract workers, as well as volunteers, and job applicants.


Pregnancy-related discrimination means any action, decision, or policy that denies a pregnant woman or that negatively affects a woman as a result of her pregnant status.

What actions might result in discrimination?

According to the Act, the following actions are frowned at if they result in discrimination related to pregnancy:

  • Refusing to hire or promote a woman because of her pregnant status;
  • Harassment
  • Adverse differential treatment in employment
  • Termination of employment because of pregnancy
  • Instituting or following policies or practices and
  • Failure to provide reasonable accommodation.

What are pregnancy-related circumstances?

Pregnancy-related circumstances include:

  • Planning or attempting to get pregnant
  • Childbirth
  • Pregnancy as a result of surrogacy
  • Placing a newborn baby for adoption
  • Post-pregnancy maternity leave; and
  • breastfeeding.

How pregnancy can relate to other grounds of discrimination

Pregnancy and family status

This Act also protect individuals from discrimination on the ground of family status, which includes the status of being related to a pregnant woman as a parent or a spouse.

Those related to a pregnant woman may raised a family status issues in the workplace (such as a spouse or partner), or by those related to the expected child. For example, a spouse of a pregnant woman may require time off work in other to accompany her to a medical appointment.

This Act also extend to family status rights, such as parental leave for new mothers or fathers, and child-care-related needs. Family status issues can be very complex.

Under this Act, pregnancy is not a form of disability.

Pregnancy may however affect or be affected by other medical issues. Some employees may have needs related to pregnancy such as disability or on other grounds. However, both male and female employees may need time off for specialized medical care if they have underlying conditions that may complicate fertility, conception, or pregnancy. Disability issues in pregnancy-related may arise before, during, or after pregnancy.

Some groups of women may also be particularly vulnerable to discrimination or harassment, due to unfair but nevertheless persistent negative stereotypes or perceptions of these groups as pregnant women or as mothers. All pregnant women deserves equal respect and dignity in the workplace. Teasing, demeaning, or ridiculing pregnant employees because they are for instance disabled, single, young, lesbian, Aboriginal, transgendered, Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, or atheist, can be seen as a form of discrimination and punishable under the law


Some people may make changes in the way they work because of pregnancy-related needs. For example, a pregnant employee may need additional time for bathroom breaks, this should be allowed without docking her existing break time. An employer must take every possible means  necessary to allow its employees to work to the best of their ability without being limited by discrimination.

It is pertinent to note that the duty to accommodate pregnancy-related needs only applies when an employee has a real need and has identified and communicated what that need is. The duty to accommodate does not mean to create an obligation for an employer to meet every request or preference. However, the pregnant employee has a right to reasonable accommodation, but she is not necessarily entitled to a perfect solution, nor is she guaranteed her preferred option. She should not be compared to accept an undignified solution, or one that does not align well with her.

Each situation that involves the duty to accommodate must be looked at on a case-by-case basis, since each pregnant employee will have unique circumstances and individual needs, and each workplace is different.

You can also see how to immigrate to Canada while pregnant