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Pregnancy related unfair dismissal

The Labour Court , in an appeal hearing, awarded €17,000 to an employee dismissed because of her pregnancy related illness.

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In the case, Western Brand Group Limited v Aneta Petrova the employee had become ill in work. She had to go to hospital later suffered a miscarriage.

She filed various medical certificates to cover her period of absence from work. The employee was eventually informed that because of her inability to attend work, she was being dismissed.

She entered a claim for unfair dismissal with the WRC. She had only been employed for a month at the time of her dismissal. This is an example of the exception to the twelve month employment rule, where the reason for the dismissal can be shown to be pregnancy related (or any of the automatically unfair grounds listed in the Unfair Dismissal Acts 1977-2015)

The employer submitted that the medical certificates furnished by the employee did not specify the illness. They stated that they were not aware of her pregnancy at the time of the dismissal. They also stated that when they became aware of her miscarriage, they informed her that she could re-apply for her job.

The employee claimed that the employer was fully aware of the pregnancy and the related illness at the time of her dismissal.

On December 21 a medical certificate was delivered to her employer. Eight days later she was sacked summarily over the phone.

This was backed up in evidence by the member of the payroll staff who was instructed by the employer to dismiss the claimant.

The decision

The court held that the employee was dismissed because of her absence due to pregnancy and miscarriage and was therefore unfair. The award could have been larger if the claimant had furnished evidence of her attempts to find new employment since her dismissal and her availability for work, following her dismissal. The Labour Court increased the award of compensation from €12,000 to €17,000.

 

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