Dismissal when pregnant
8th August 2016
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Citizens Advice Eastbourne continues to see women dismissed when they become pregnant. Typically a woman would have been working for an employer for some time and then she informs them she is pregnant. Soon after, sometimes immediately, she is told she is no longer needed and is dismissed. If a zero hours contract is involved, suddenly there is no more work available for that person.

This is the kind of thing I associate with the 1970s, an old fashioned form of sex discrimination which most of us would think no longer occurs. Yet we see cases too often. Let's be clear, dismissal of a woman for becoming pregnant would be unfair and an Employment Tribunal may find against the employer and apply a hefty penalty.

So why is this still happening?

Here's my theory: Some employers are worried about the cost of maternity pay and are concerned about paying this as well as the salary of a replacement member of staff to cover the maternity period. This is understandable if a small employer or a new employer, for example, has never dealt with pregnancy before but what they may be unaware of is they can reclaim maternity pay from HMRC.

There is information about this on the gov.uk website:  Click Here

which says:  As an employer, you can usually reclaim 92% of employees’ Statutory Maternity (SMP), Paternity, Adoption and Shared Parental Pay.

You can reclaim 103% if your business qualifies for Small Employers’ Relief. You get this if you paid £45,000 or less in Class 1 National Insurance in the last complete tax year….”

So in many cases the employer will not be worse off as a result of maternity pay (and in some cases they’ll get a little more back from the government.

The alternative is potentially more costly to the employer. When a tribunal looks at a claim for dismissal, there are certain legal tests that they will apply. One of these tests is how long the employer has been working for the employer. Generally, you must have been in your job for a certain length of time before you can claim unfair dismissal.

However, there are certain reasons for dismissal which a tribunal will decide are automatically unfair. If you're dismissed for any of these reasons, you will be able to claim, regardless of how long you've worked for your employer. Dismissal for pregnancy is an automatic unfair reason for dismissal. Dismissal for pregnancy is also considered to be discrimination and you can make a separate claim for this in addition to a claim for unfair dismissal.

There have been examples where the Tribunal has awarded £30,000 compensation for a woman who was unfairly dismissed as a result of her pregnancy.

If in doubt, an employer should seek advice from HMRC, whoever does their payroll or an HR expert. Not doing so could prove more costly for them in the long run. 

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Citizens Advice Eastbourne

Member since: 11th July 2016

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