Three women in Northern Ireland have recently received settlements totalling £15,500 after being subjected to pregnancy or maternity discrimination in the workplace.
Sarah Shilliday, Cherie White and Kelly McAtamney accepted financial settlements before their cases reached an Industrial Tribunal.
All three women were helped to pursue their separate claims by The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland.
Ms Shilliday said her “childcare responsibilities” were discussed when she was interviewed for a management job with RJN Chemicals.
She later received an email from the firm whereby they commented on her suitability for the role but added: “sadly I’m afraid your personal arrangements with the new baby will make it impossible to carry out this role”. Ms Shilliday’s case was settled for £3,000.
Kelly McAtamney also brought a case against her employer Medi Cosmetics.
Ms McAtamney, who was pregnant and at risk of miscarriage, alleged that her employer would not adjust her duties to accommodate her doctor’s advice that she needed to “stay off her feet” as much as possible. As a result, Ms McAtamney felt that she had to resign from her job. She received a £4,500 settlement with no admission of liability.
Cherie White settled a complaint that she had made to her employer, the Irish Football Association (IFA) for £8,000, though without receiving an admission of liability. She alleged that a number of temporary positions, including posts which had arisen while she was on maternity leave, had been made permanent. Ms White contended that, but for her being maternity leave, she would have been in a position to be considered for one of the permanent posts
The Equality Commission have stated that pregnancy discrimination was a “persistent problem” and the most “common cause of complaint on the grounds of gender” that they receive.
Discrimination happens when an employer treats one employee less favourably than others. It can happen in many instance other than the ones above – for example, if a female employee is being paid less than a male colleague for doing the same job, if an employer fails to make reasonable adjustments in the workplace due to an employee’s disability or if an employee from an ethnic minority community is refused the training opportunities offered to other colleagues.
There are specific laws against some types of discrimination (called ‘unlawful discrimination’). If your employer treats you less favourably for an unlawful reason, you may be able to take action.