Maternity, pregnancy and breastfeeding are special periods in an employee's life. They have a great influence on the employment relationship, from the job interview to the dismissal. There are a few rules to follow to ensure that maternity and work go hand in hand.

Job interview

During the job interview, the questions come and go. "Are you pregnant or planning to become pregnant soon?" "Do you have any dependent children?"

These types of questions are basically illegal, unless they are directly related to the job being considered. The employer will not in principle be able to dismiss an employee who has lied to such an illegal question.

Discrimination in hiring

Less flexibility, care of sick children, inability to work during a pregnancy: the employer's fears regarding the maternity of an employee are real. Are these reasons enough to justify an employer's refusal to hire a young woman or is it discrimination in hiring?

Working hours

Pregnancy and breastfeeding are periods during which the employee tires more quickly. Her working hours are limited. In some cases, the employee is entitled to more breaks, which must be paid.

She is not allowed to work evenings or nights during certain periods of pregnancy.

Maternity leave

Most employees are entitled to paid maternity leave for a certain period of time, which is paid by the loss of earnings insurance. However, the amount of compensation paid is limited. Does the employer have to supplement the salary of executive employees who are penalized because they receive a higher salary?


When the employee is pregnant or breastfeeding, her health and that of her child may be compromised by certain activities. The employer may not employ the employee in work that is dangerous, arduous or that exposes her to substances that are harmful to her health or that of her baby.

The employer may assign other work to the employee. If he or she is unable to do so, he or she will have to pay the employee a portion of his or her wages for a certain period of time.

Reduced holiday

When an employee is absent for a long period of time, the employer may, in some cases, reduce her holiday entitlement. What about when the employee has been unable to work due to pregnancy or absent due to maternity leave?


It is sometimes difficult for the employee to juggle family responsibilities with her professional obligations. The possibility for the employer to ask her to work overtime is limited.

Equal pay

Equal pay for women and men is enshrined in the Federal Constitution and is given concrete form in the Law on Equality between Women and Men. The Law on Equality stipulates in particular that it is forbidden to discriminate against a female employee in terms of salary, in particular because of her pregnancy or maternity.

A difference in salary must in principle be based on an objective reason. Is a lower salary due to the employee's absence to take care of her sick children justified?

Wrongful termination

Sometimes an employer is angry that an employee has become pregnant or that she is asserting her rights regarding breastfeeding, for example, and dismisses the employee. This is a wrongful termination, which is punishable by compensation that can amount to several months' salary.

If the dismissal is given in retaliation for the employee having asserted her rights, the dismissal may be considered null and void. The employee may ask to be reinstated at her job.

Certain situations are nuanced. Such is the case of the dismissal of a young woman after her return from maternity leave because she was unable to keep up to date with the new system in place in the company due to her absence and her inability to work. 

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1 Mar, 2010 byMarianne Favre Moreillon