Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Positive pregnancy result

In dealing with sex discrimination, it is possible to fall victim to one kind of regulation while trying to avoid another. In a recent case a woman station master was demoted when she became pregnant because the employer claimed that under health and safety regulations he had to avoid any risk to a pregnant employee.

The employment appeals tribunal found that the duty was to 'reduce to a low risk' or 'reduce the risk as far as possible' rather than avoid the risk entirely. This may help ASCL members in making judgements in other areas.

Nevertheless, the case is a reminder that the safety of pregnant workers is something employers are not always as conscientious of as they should be.

Another case establishes that if an employee becomes at risk of redundancy while pregnant, she should be given priority consideration for alternative work before a decision to select for redundancy. In another, it has been established that an employee on maternity leave is entitled to any increase in pay and benefits that may occur while she is away.

This case is likely to have little effect in schools, which have always operated it for teachers but it would be as well to ensure that it applies for all employees both in schools and colleges.

Finally, the European Court has determined that there is nothing discriminatory in treating pregnancy-related illness in the same way as illnesses unrelated to pregnancy.

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