Sending a pregnant woman home during the coronavirus pandemic was not maternity discrimination
The Employment Tribunal ruled in Prosser v Community Gateway Association Ltd that an employer did not discriminate against a pregnant woman engaged on a zero-hours contract after she was sent home from work for several months due to health and safety concerns about her contracting COVID-19.
The Claimant was working for the employer under a zero-hours contract. In March 2020, the Claimant told her employer she was pregnant. She was subsequently sent home because they considered her to be clinically vulnerable based on the Government’s guidance. The Claimant was not allowed to return to work until August 2020 after the workplace had been made Covid secure.
The Claimant raised a grievance on the grounds that she had not been paid for the shifts that she would have carried out had she not been sent home. Her employer subsequently paid her for the months she was not allowed to work.
The Claimant then brought a claim against her employer on the basis that sending her home from work, not allowing her to return for several months and delaying payment to her amounted to direct pregnancy and maternity discrimination.
The Employment Tribunal dismissed the claims finding that the employer’s decision to send the Claimant home from work based on the Government’s public health guidance at the time was not unfavourable treatment. Nor was unfavourable treatment to delay her return until appropriate COVID-secure measures had been put in place as these were positive steps taken to protect her. The delay in paying the Claimant for the shifts she would have otherwise worked was unconnected to her pregnancy and had already been rectified by the employer.
This case is the first to address the issue of pregnancy discrimination against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic and highlights the importance of conducting a proper risk assessment.
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