Can I sack a pregnant employee?
The simple answer is, yes.
There is a strong misconception that you are unable to sack an employee who is pregnant but you are in fact entitled to dismiss as long as you are not sacking them because of the pregnancy or reasons related to it, the dismissal must only relate to misconduct.
For example, a pregnant employee in a care home failed to administer end-of-life drugs to a resident and took the drugs home. She then returned to the care home, disposed of them incorrectly, and lied about what had happened.
In this case, regardless of the employee being pregnant, this amounted to gross misconduct, and the employee was dismissed. When carrying out any dismissal, all employers must follow a fair procedure and have it carried out in a fairway.
The Labour Party has included a proposal to prevent any person who is pregnant from being dismissed in their manifesto. They have not clarified if any exceptions would apply.
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Pregnant employees rights
Pregnant employees do get enhanced protections and rights in some cases which employers should be aware of.
The Equality Act 2010 outlaws discrimination against employees because of the “protected characteristic” of pregnancy and maternity. You cannot treat a person less favourably, including dismissal, because of their pregnancy or maternity.
The Employmant Rights Act 1996
The Employment Rights Act 1996 outlines the right to; paid time off for antenatal appointments; time off for antenatal appointments; maternity leave and pay and the right to discrimination protection.
Where an employee on maternity leave has been selected for redundancy they have enhanced protection. Employers must offer such employees any suitable, alternative rules before offering them to anyone else.
Pregnancy does not provide employees with a shield, it does not automatically protect them from disciplinary or dismissal. Employers should exercise caution and always take advice when dealing with any employee with a protected characteristic.
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