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Martin Searle Solicitors

Mind The Bump 2011

The two most common types of discrimination at work we encounter are disability and pregnancy and maternity discrimination. We have recently run a campaign to raise awareness of the problem of pregnancy discrimination and this article looks at how the problem most frequently manifests itself.

By far the most frequent cases we see are when women are dismissed after telling the boss they are pregnant. Often this happens when the woman has less than one year’s service. Unfortunately for those employers, pregnancy dismissals are an exception to the one year’s service rule for bringing an unfair dismissal claim.

Any pregnancy-related dismissal is automatically unfair. And worse still for offending employers, as well as compensating the employee for unfair dismissal, they also have to stump up a financial award for injury to feelings as a result of discrimination.

There is another group of employers – thought to be responsible for thousands of women losing their jobs – that make the maternity returner’s job ‘disappear’. Often the job has been given to someone else in a restructure the new mum knows nothing about.

But maternity returners have a right to return to their old job and employers have no right to give it away. This does not mean pregnant employees and maternity returners cannot be made redundant, but there has to be a true redundancy situation.

The third issue we see is where a genuine restructure has resulted in redundancies but the uninformed employer doesn’t understand the right of a woman on maternity leave to be offered suitable alternative employment before anyone else is offered the role.

The final problem area is where sickness is used as a weighting criteria during a redundancy programme. Employers must ignore pregnancy-related sickness in the redundancy selection process.

Equality in the workplace for men and women underpins good employment relations and ensures fairness. Employment laws are there to prevent negative behaviour towards pregnant women and provide a level playing field. Unfortunately, too many employers are paying the price for ignoring them. We have highlighted the four common problems we see most, however pregancy discrimination can occur in many different ways.

Organisations such as Maternity Action have fought long and hard to tackle discrimination towards pregnant women at work. On a local level we’ve been offering a free advice line for employers and employees to try and ensure everyone understands their rights and responsibilities.

This article appeared in The Argus in February 2011

About the author

Martin Searle Solicitors

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Founded in Brighton in 2004, Martin Searle Solicitors is an award-winning law firm providing specialist legal advice and support in employment law for employers and employees, as well as expert guidance and legal advice in community care law.

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