Case Study 1: Discrimination towards pregnant workers - unreasonable offer of alternative work
This case involves three pregnant women who approached us for
assistance when their employer treated them unfairly as a result of
their pregnancies. In this case, the respondent is an agency
providing staff for a large supermarket chain.
All three clients had been working in a warehouse until they
notified their employer of their pregnancies. Soon after this their
employer advised each of them that due to health and safety they
could no longer work on the warehouse floor. A risk assessment was
carried out by the employer's Human Resources department.
Each of the clients was offered alternative work (light duties)
at their employer's offices in Liverpool. This would have involved
considerable travel for all three clients, up to three hours each
way. Initially the clients were offered the same working
hours, so in addition to their normal working day they were faced
with a six-hour round trip.
The clients rejected the offer and all obtained and provided GP
notes saying due to their pregnancies they could not make such a
journey. In response, their employer cut down their working hours,
meaning the clients would have fewer hours to work and subsequently
would also have less income.
Again, all three clients refused this arrangement. Following
their refusal all three clients were advised that due to their
refusal to comply with the arrangements made by their employer they
would be placed on sick leave but would not be paid.
At this point, all three women approached our team. Following
their appointments, we submitted a claim to the Employment Tribunal
on the basis that their employer's treatment of them was
discriminatory, that it is unlawful to put employees on sick leave
against their will when they are not actually sick, and that the
offer of alternative work did not constitute a real offer of
We went through the process of requesting details of the
employer's policies, of who carried out the risk assessment, the
background of that person, the conclusion, the evidence gathered
regarding the clients' medical state and the journey details. The
employer was not reasonable in its approach to settlement, so the
case proceeded to a full trial over two days.
The Tribunal concluded that the offer of work in Liverpool was
not in any way reasonable even for someone who was not pregnant.
The offer was not a genuine one and a reasonable alternative should
have been given closer to the clients' homes.
The Tribunal also concluded that the policy of placing the
clients on sick leave was discriminatory as the clients were not
sick. Alternative work should have been provided or the clients
should have been placed on maternity suspension pay and paid their
normal salary until they were able to go on maternity leave.
The clients were awarded £2000 for loss of income while the
proceedings took place and £4000 as compensation for being
discriminated against. The clients have been paid and placed on
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