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Equality Act - Pregnancy / Maternity Discrimination

(84 Posts)
OneTwoOrThree Thu 04-Oct-12 15:05:38

Looking for some help, please....

I believe that I have been discriminated against by my mortgage provider on grounds of pregnancy / maternity. I am in the midst of their complaints process and will escalate to the Financial Ombudsman if necessary.

In short, the bank are refusing to lend me additional funds purely because my 'maternity pay' does not meet their lending criteria however if I was receiving my normal salary they would be happy to lend. Please shout if you disagree that this is maternity discrimination.

Anyway, the reason for my post is that I'm not sure what to do next. I could get the funds at a similar rate from another bank, so why fight my current lender? What do I gain? (Apart from, perhaps, influencing a change in policy so others don't suffer the same discrimination).

CelineMcBean Mon 08-Oct-12 21:26:39

Op, I did have a quick look at the Act, particularly the service sections, exceptions and schedules and I haven't revised my opinion.

I don't have time now to pull out all the relevant points (you seem to have most of them any way) and Youlllaugh has done a brillisnt job, but suffice to say I do not need to make any apologies wink

OneTwoOrThree Mon 08-Oct-12 21:58:45

Thanks Celine.... Really appreciate your input and you have reassured me that I may well have a case here.

I think the aspect that really irks me is the 'timing' issue. Any (female) mortgage applicant could go on to get pregnant / take maternity leave, but would not be discriminated against for this potential future change...

Furthermore, I am frustrated by the fact that I have offered to demonstrate to the 'bad bank' that I have planned for my reduced income (by having cash savings that are greater than the reduction in my income for the maximum duration of my maternity leave) and can therefore afford the proposed mortgage repayments.

In addition to this, I have overpaid my monthly repayments by circa 60% each month since the outset of my mortgage. I have subsequently 'cashed this in' to pay for my extension, but having made these regular payments demonstrates my 'repayment ability' - ie the bit the bank should be concerned about?

I'd love to achieve something during my maternity leave (other than a wonderfully happy, balanced etc etc DC), so am 'well up' for this fight!. I suspect the chances of this 'battle' being over before I return to work are very slim though...

YoullLaughAboutItOneDay Mon 08-Oct-12 22:05:57

If you want to go for it, go for it. I do think it is horribly unfair, and admire your guts.

However, just bear in mind the legal test. It's about whether you were treated unfavourably due to your pregnancy. It's not about comparators in maternity discrimination. How you are treated compared to other women who might go on to get pregnant isn't that (legally) relevant. I can see how it irks, but don't get sidelined into that being your main argument or it will be pretty easy for them to rebut you.

olgaga Mon 08-Oct-12 23:15:58

OneTwoorThree Do please let us know how you get on making your case, and how it is to be argued - and of course I am eager to hear the outcome!

Best of luck to you with all that's in store.

BelleCurve Tue 09-Oct-12 20:48:00

I've found the Ombudsman final wording to my complaint

"X says that where an applicant is on maternity leave, it will only take into account their employment income if it receives proof that they will return to work within 3 months. I am satisfied that X does not reject applications solely because an applicant is on maternity leave. Rather, it assesses whether the requested borrowing is affordable based on the income that is verifiable. I think that this is a reasonable approach in the circumstances and that X has not treated Ms Curve unfairly."

I am not sure why/how this 3 month thing came about, being as your return to employment rights are exactly the same throughout and if you choose not to return the standard notification period is IIRC 8 weeks.

They don't make any comparison to alternative situations, so I think just having a "maternity leave" policy is discriminatory in this circumstance.

Also, and most tellingly - they never even asked what my income was whilst I was on maternity leave. For all they know I could (I wasn't) have been on 6 months full pay.

Plus here is some of the media coverage from the research report that I contributed to. Unfortunately, that is not me with the bump!

sorry daily mail

YoullLaughAboutItOneDay Tue 09-Oct-12 20:55:34

That's interesting.

It sounds like the bank was arguing that it wasn't so much about maternity leave or thinking you might not return to work. It was effectively about the fact that you did not meet the earnings threshold because they wouldn't count your pay unless it was going to start coming in again imminently.

Rather undermined by not asking how much your maternity pay was though hmm.

But if that defence has worked with the ombudsman, it is something for the OP to bear in mind.

olgaga Tue 09-Oct-12 22:45:38

I am satisfied that X does not reject applications solely because an applicant is on maternity leave. Rather, it assesses whether the requested borrowing is affordable based on the income that is verifiable.

Yes - I thought that was the obvious response. As I tried to explain, it's not the maternity pay in itself. It's the affordability. A woman on maternity leave (or a couple) may still have a sufficiently high income to meet the affordability criterion.

Interesting study you participated in and linked to Belle. The article I linked to in my post upthread is a later one:

There's no easy answer to this - the Affordability Test is mandatory, and non-discriminatory - applying, as it does, to everyone.

CelineMcBean Tue 09-Oct-12 23:14:36

I think the fact that ruling came in before the Equality Act and pregnancy/maternity became a specific protected characteristic is a very important point.

I can see how a sex discrimination argument would be harder to fight but the new statutory legislation potentially gives the maternity discrimination legs.

olgaga Wed 10-Oct-12 08:49:20

The Ombudsman's decision post-dates the Act.

Pregnancy/maternity was a protected characteristic (S.3A of the SDA 1975) prior to the EquA.

You would still have to show that the lender has, at the time of the application, discriminated on the grounds of the protected characteristic (pregnancy and maternity) and not income. That is the only relevant issue.

It is obviously important that lenders do not make assumptions about people as a result of any protected characteristic. The correct approach is to look at affordability. Which is what the lender has done.

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