Employees ‘terrified of telling bosses they’re pregnant’

A beauty therapist was told her pregnancy was her own problem in what was described as a “particularly heartless” dismissal.

An employment law expert has described the dismissal of a pregnant beauty therapist as 'particularly heartless'.
An employment law expert has described the dismissal of a pregnant beauty therapist as 'particularly heartless'.

In the case before the Workplace Relations Commission, the WRC awarded the unnamed woman €5,179 under a number of breaches of employment legislation.

The bulk of the award at €4,000 is for the woman’s dismissal by a beauty salon for being pregnant when dismissed and circumstances around the dismissal.

Yesterday, employment law expert and solicitor Richard Grogan described the circumstances around the dismissal “as being particularly heartless”.

Mr Grogan said that the €4,000 award “will no way, in a month of Sundays, act as a deterrent to employers in sacking pregnant employees. It is extremely low.”

In the case, the woman advised her employer in October 2015 she was pregnant.

However, in January 2016, she received a phonecall from the salon’s manager stating the business’s accountant said she should be dismissed due to an extremely difficult trading position and a significant decline in business.

The therapist asked she be allowed to continue at work and suggested her hours be halved to work one day a week.

The therapist said that the female manager became aggressive and explained the company’s circumstances.

However, the employee received her dismissal letter on January 21, 2016.

Two days before receiving the dismissal letter, the pregnant woman phoned the salon and she alleged that the daughter of the manager told her her “pregnancy was her own problem” in the context of being dismissed.

The WRC adjudication officer awarded the therapist €3,500 for the discrimination she suffered as a result of being dismissed while pregnant and €500 for harassment arising from the phone call on January 19.

The official said, that in making the appropriate remedy, she was mindful the employer went out of business in July 2016.

Mr Grogan said yesterday the employer in this case “showed scant regard for the employee who was dismissed out of hand”.

Not involved in the case, Mr Grogan said: “This form of discrimination is abhorrent and needs to be stamped out and breaches of the relevant legislation cannot be countenanced.”

He said pregnancy-related dismissals are becoming more and more common so much so that it is a question of ‘get pregnant, get fired’.

Mr Grogan said pregnant employees “are terrified of telling their bosses that they are pregnant”.

He said this was particularly true in the accountancy and legal professions.

The solicitor said that the salon going out of business should not be a consideration in determining the level of award.

He said: “I would have serious concerns about that.”

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