My wife was recently declined for a credit card based solely on the fact she is 6 months pregnant and will soon be on maternity leave.

The scenario details are as follows:

Application was made in person in a pre-booked appointment. The process was undertaken by a trainee. Various details were entered into the system including salary (>£30k), savings (>10k) and current debt (<5k). Then various questions were asked including "will your financial circumstances change within the next two years?". My wife answered yes and explained she is due to go on maternity leave soon. At this point a "computer says no" message appeared and she was told that this was the end of the appointment. My wife expressed surprise and the trainee consulted other members of staff who confirmed that the change in circumstances resulting from maternity meant that she could not obtain a card at this time.

My wife has a completely clean history and was understandably surprised. She has since applied (successfully) to another organisation. During the application this other organisation told her that, since she is on maternity leave and not losing her job, she should answer no in response to the question about a change in circumstances. Further, they offered to contact the bank and ask why she had been declined - The bank responded that she had been declined for a variety of reasons and categorically denied that pregnancy was in any way a factor in their decision (this is clearly a lie). Thus not only was the application likely declined erroneously but her credit score has been impacted.

Obviously we will be withdrawing all accounts from this bank and will not use them again. We have put in a direct complaint with the bank but don't believe that they will take this seriously.

The question: is there something more punitive that we can do and/or is there any way to undo the (minor) damage to credit score?

Update: the bank's complaint service "investigated" the complaint but decided that the action was justified and repeated their own fictitious sequence of events, essentially ignoring our complaint. We are now escalating the matter to the Financial Ombudsman.

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    just to clarify, when you say "clean history" do you mean that she has a credit history which has no negatives on it or that her credit report has no items on it? This may make a huge difference
    – MD-Tech
    Commented May 3, 2019 at 15:00
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    Out of curiousity, is it normal to do an in-person application for a credit card in the UK? I've never heard of such a thing in the US.
    – jamesqf
    Commented May 3, 2019 at 17:51
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    Why do you think it would be illegal to decline a credit care based on lower income? Why are you looking for something "punitive" against a reasonable action? Commented May 6, 2019 at 14:37
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    @Vicky there is nothing illegal about declining based on a announced upcoming change in financial situation, OPs wife will be earning less on maternity leave fact, if she no longer meets the criteria for the loan they decline. The pregnancy really isn't a factor in the decision, and that is what the financial ombudsman would tell you
    – J.Doe
    Commented May 24, 2019 at 13:27
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    In terms of discrimination, the requirement on the bank is to prove that they're treating otherwise-similar individuals the same. In other words, if they have pregnant candidate A and non-pregnant candidate B, (or white candidate A and hispanic candidate B, and so on) and they're identical in terms of credit history, DTI, and other factors, then the bank simply has to show that they treated them similarly. Discrimination would only come into play if people like A and B consistently received different lending decisions at a given FI.
    – dwizum
    Commented May 24, 2019 at 15:15

2 Answers 2


I'm not in the UK, but just a matter of observation:

My wife was recently declined for a credit card based solely on the fact she is 6 months pregnant and will soon be on maternity leave.

No, your wife was declined because her financial situation was presented as it would be negatively affected.

She likely would have been declined if she said she was going on vacation for 6 months and her financial situation would also be negatively affected. In such case, she wouldn't be getting declined "solely on the fact that she's taking a vacation".

The bank is going to give you an official reason for declining you (or at least they do here in the states), and they sound like they already took an official stance when your next bank called them for their reasoning. Just because you got the impression it was because of a protected reason like pregnancy doesn't make it so.

And, and here's really the main point, even if you're 100% convinced it was because she was pregnant and solely because she was pregnant, you'd then have to prove it. Bank will fall back on any subjective reason to decline her. In cases like this you'd likely have to prove the bank has a history of such actions, or catch a bank official on tape telling you it was solely because of her pregnancy, or something extreme to that nature.

Best advice, recognize the bank is awful (in your experience) and move on with life. Move your money, don't do business with them, which it sounds like you're already doing. :)

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    That's not how the law works in the UK. Pregnancy is a protected status, unlike going on vacation, so you can't be discriminated against because of it or because of the consequences of it.
    – Vicky
    Commented May 24, 2019 at 12:45
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    @Vicky I think the answer made pretty clear that pregnancy is a protected status in theory, but in this practical situation that doesn't matter because OP can not prove that it was discrimination due to pregnancy and the bank has plausible deniability. I am not that familiar with how UK law works either, but until now I assumed that it follows the regular principle of law which states that the burden of proof lies with the accuser, not the defendant. Am I wrong about that?
    – Philipp
    Commented May 24, 2019 at 13:17
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    @Vicky your income is not a protected characteristic, if she is taking a pay cut to go on maternity leave they can decide to decline or accept based on the expected change of income. They cant decline for being pregnant, they can decline if your income is going to become too low due to maternity leave. mortgages are the same and ive recently done a course on things like that for work.
    – J.Doe
    Commented May 24, 2019 at 13:20
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    @J.Doe if they want to discriminate based on income then shouldn't they have asked for details? Maternity packages vary enormously. Commented May 24, 2019 at 14:30
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    @Vicky Cite? Do you have something that specifically addresses this issue, or are you simply arguing that it follows from pregnancy being a protected class? Just because something results from a protected characteristic, does not mean that it's illegal to discriminate based on it. Commented May 24, 2019 at 14:34

The pregnancy is a red herring as such, they have not declined you to do with the pregnancy, they have declined due to a expected decrease in income that takes you below the threshold required to get the loan.

protected characteristics like pregnancy can't be used to discriminate, but your income is not a protected characteristic , and the protection doesn't extend to the decrease in income coming from maternity leave.

If you applied for the loan with your wife's expected income from maternity leave from the start and not said anything about the pregnancy, you would of most likely still been declined.

There is no punitive action to take, because there has been no discrimination that has taken place. Just because you don't like the result doesn't make it discrimination.

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