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Dublin: 15 °C Friday 7 August, 2020

Woman put on leave after telling employer she was pregnant awarded €12,000

The company claimed there was no suitable alternative work for her.

Image: Shutterstock/Kovalchynskyy Mykola

A WOMAN WHO was prematurely removed from her job after telling her employer she was three months pregnant has been awarded €12,000 in compensation for discrimination.

Mary Gilman Bennett, a former manager at Elaine Byrne’s Health and Beauty Clinic in Naas, was placed on health and safety leave in December 2011, just over week after she informed the company that she was expecting.

The respondent claimed to have placed her on leave because of the risks involved in tasks like lifting boxes, moving furniture, stocking shelves, climbing stairs and using the clinic’s tanning machine.

The woman, who had a permanent contract of employment at the time, submitted that tasks identified as potentially dangerous in the company’s risk assessment form amounted to only 2% of her working month, and that they could easily be carried out by another employee.

She said she tried to explain to the respondent that none of the tasks would affect her pregnancy, but that the respondent was not open to taking preventative measures that would allow her to continue in her employment.

The company stated that there was no suitable alternative work available to the woman and that it was not practical for another employee to carry out duties that posed a risk to her.

The respondent conceded, however, that there was an emphasis on cutting costs at the time as the business was in financial difficulty.

She and her sister took over the complainant’s duties once she left.

‘Could be used to exclude almost all pregnant employees’

In a recent judgement, the Equality Tribunal ruled that the woman was discriminated against on the grounds of gender.

It accepted that she was placed on health and safety leave against her wishes, based only a risk assessment that “could be used to exclude almost all pregnant employees from the workplace”.

Equality Officer Peter Healy noted that a pregnant relative of the respondent who took over the complainant’s work was not subject to the same assessment.

Read: Polish workers lose discrimination case over McDonald’s English-only policy

Read: Woman told company were looking for ‘Irish nationals only’ awarded €2,000

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About the author:

Catherine Healy

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