• Alison Phillis

PREGNANCY IN THE WORKPLACE


Peter is the owner of a small business that employs ten people. He has recently learned that Janet, one of his employees is pregnant


Janet has advised him that she would like to take three months maternity leave and then return to work on a part-time basis, working two and a half days a week. Peter is keen to retain Janet as she is a skilled and reliable employee, but he has a number of concerns regarding her proposal.


It has always been Peter’s policy to employ staff on a full-time basis, and although changes could be made in the workplace to facilitate Janet’s working part-time Peter considers this inconvenient.


Also, Janet’s position is one which involves a lot of customer contact, and Peter feels it would not look good to have a pregnant employee in this position. He wanted to transfer her to another position during her pregnancy which has less customer contact. Although this position is usually lower paid, Peter is prepared to continue pay her at her current salary. Upon her return to work he would like her to re-commence her duties on a full-time basis.


Fortunately, prior to advising Janet of his intentions Peter consulted his solicitor. Peter’s solicitor advised him that it is unlawful to discriminate against a person on the grounds of pregnancy or parental status. Transferring Janet to another position on the basis of pregnancy could be unlawful discrimination despite the fact that he is prepared to maintain her current salary.


Also, Peter is required to take reasonable steps to assist Janet to return to work. Peter’s solicitor advised him that refusing to offer Janet part-time work may amount to discrimination.


After obtaining advice from his solicitor Peter was able to talk with Janet and formulate a plan for her maternity leave and return to work that was suitable to both.