Workplace discrimination affecting pregnant women in the United Kingdom is more commonplace than many would think. Thousands upon thousands of pregnant women are terminated each year or continue to work and face difficulties in the workplace caused by their pregnancy. This can take an emotional toll on women already in a precarious position dealing with pregnancy, work schedules and possibly other family responsibilities. For many, maternity leave cannot come soon enough.
According to the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, employers are mandated to conduct a risk assessment if they have employed women of childbearing years. Additionally, a midwife or general practitioner (GP) can require certain limitations in the MAT B1 certificate. The employer may consider transferring the pregnant woman to lighter duties, when applicable and agreeable to the worker. Safety should be the main concern.
Types of Pregnancy Discrimination
Supervisors and co-workers will at times create a hostile atmosphere for the pregnant worker when they perceive a pregnant worker is taking too much time off for antenatal appointments etc. Additionally, the appointments are paid working time for reasonable periods including travel, when an employee gives proof of appointment when asked.
It is unlawful for an employer or supervisorto tell the employee to schedule appointments during nonworking hours.
There are many forms of pregnancy discrimination; a few of those practices include:
- termination or dismissal during pregnancy or maternity leave
- direct or indirect bullying in the workplace pertaining to the pregnancy or antenatal appointments
- denial of bonuses or promotion
- denial of time off for appointments
It is the employer’s responsibility to provide a safe and healthy working environment, free from additional stress.
Unfair Dismissal due to Pregnancy
It is unlawfulto terminate a pregnant worker simply because of pregnancy or matters related to that pregnancy, such as taking antenatal appointments and maternity leave. There are valid reasons to terminate even a pregnant worker, for example misconduct, particularly violent misconduct, poor performanceor redundancy.
Maternity leave is a guaranteed right for all workers and a worker on maternity leave should not be terminated, except under rare conditions, such as criminal activity or genuine redundancy. When the employer terminates an employee during maternity leave, they must provide reason for termination. At that time, the employee should consult an employment law specialist to determine the course of action to take.
If in the opinion of the solicitor or lawyer it is an unfair dismissal, then the solicitor could attempt negotiation with the employer, and when that is unsuccessful make application to the Employment Tribunal (ET) for hearing. In that case, the qualifying employment time of one year or two years, if employment commenced after 6 April 2012, is waived. Additionally, the employer bears the burden of proof that the employee’s dismissal was fair and just or that the redundancy is genuine.
There are no caps to compensatory damages forunfair dismissal due to a pregnancy; therefore, damage awards can be substantial.
Redundancy & Pregnancy
Redundancy occurs when a worker’s skills or services are not necessary any longer, this could be because the business is moving in a new direction and current technologies are no longer relevant, the business is bankrupt or closing down or the position is no longer required by anyone. An individual might be chosen for redundancy for a diverse number of logical reasons. A pregnant woman or a woman on maternity leave who is selected for redundancy dismissal mightbe part of the fair process of elimination.
In a genuine redundancy, pregnancy or maternity leave status cannot legally be considered. For an employer to say she cannot be terminated because she is pregnant is as much discrimination as terminating her because she is pregnant or on leave.
However, if a similar position within the organisation is open, those selected for dismissal due to their position being redundant, must be given preference over a new employee. When that happens, they are not required to make application or go through the interview process. If they were not considered for the similar position, that would be unfair dismissal.
Although most redundancy claims are genuine, some employer may use that description as a sham, when that happens it is unfair dismissal and the employer could be required to pay more damages at a tribunal than might be awarded in redundancy. Quite simply it’s often cheaper for an employer to make a worker redundant rather than dismissal – this behaviour is unlawful.
Suspending a Pregnant Employee
There are two legal methods to suspend a pregnant employee, one is for health & safety reasons and the other is if the pregnant woman is on permanent night shift. The employee is due full wages during suspension, unless they refuse an alternative similar position within the current organisation. Employees who refuse alternative similar work face losing their full wages during suspension. For More Information Visit: Employment Discrimination Solicitors