Pregnant Workers on Short Term Contracts Are Protected by Law

The Equality Authority welcomes the recent judgements of the European Court of Justice relating to pregnancy discrimination. These judgements clarify that the prohibition against discrimination of a pregnant worker extends not just to permanent employees but also to employees on fixed term contracts. The Court has already held that the dismissal of a female worker on account of her pregnancy is direct discrimination on grounds of sex, irrespective of the financial loss the employer may incur arising from the fact that the employee will not be available to do the job for the period provided in law around pregnancy and birth.

“These judgements add to the substantive body of protection that is already there in the Employment Equality Act, 1998. The Court has earlier made it clear that discrimination on grounds of pregnancy is sex discrimination and is therefore illegal, irrespective of financial consequences to employees or the non availability of the employee to do the job” confirmed the Equality Authority’s Legal Advisor Eilis Barry.

“Ireland has recognised gender discrimination in law since 1977. Yet pregnancy discrimination still features in an unacceptably high number of complaints dealt with by the Equality Authority each year. 60% of our casework deal with gender discrimination complaints and 33% of these are pregnancy related. 10% of the overall caseload deals with pregnancy related dismissal in Ireland. 40% of our total public enquiry base deals with maternity and parental leave matters. The message form Irish law, now reaffirmed by the European Court of Justice, is clear – you can not fire or refuse to hire a female worker because she is pregnant. This protection clearly applies to the more vulnerable employees, those who are pregnant and on short term contracts” concluded Ms. Barry.