Pregnancy discrimination has again reared its head in the case of a woman who was sacked when 20-weeks pregnant.
An industrial tribunal hearing the case unanimously concluded that 26-year-old Laura Guzdaite had been unfairly dismissed when her employer, McGrane Nurseries in Northern Ireland, sacked her two days after an antenatal appointment.
Despite informing her employer about the scan appointment, Mrs Guzdaite was dismissed for ‘skipping work’ and needing ‘more days off’.
Managers held a meeting on the day of Mrs Guzdaite’s antenatal appointment during which a number of seasonal workers were given a week’s notice.
Two days later Mrs Guzdaite and her husband, who also worked for the firm, were informed that they would also be losing their jobs.
The company claimed the couple were dismissed because the seasonal work that they were doing had come to an end but the tribunal argued that the decision was ‘tainted by discrimination’.
The industrial tribunal unanimously found that Mrs Gruzdaite was discriminated against and had been dismissed and treated negatively as a result of her pregnancy, awarding her £20,000 for injury to feelings, £820 for loss of maternity pay, plus sums for loss of earnings and future loss of income, totalling nearly £28,000.
For more than 40 years the law has protected employees from pregnancy discrimination, yet employers still fall foul of the law whether as a result of intent or ignorance.
The Equality Act says that employers must not discriminate against women because they are pregnant, breastfeeding or have recently given birth.
Pregnant employees have a legal right to:
- Paid time off for antenatal care
- Maternity leave
- Maternity pay or maternity allowance
- Protection from unfair treatment, discrimination or dismissal
A pregnant woman’s partner is also entitled to unpaid time off work to go to two antenatal appointments.
Employers cannot change a pregnant employee’s contract terms and conditions without agreement.
Whether you are an employer or an employee, make sure you get legal advice if you have any concerns or questions about pregnancy discrimination. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01782 205000.