Pregnancy case 'victory for women'

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The Independent Online
A WOMAN who was sacked for taking time off with an ectopic pregnancy has been awarded more than pounds 15,000 compensation after a tribunal ruled that it was a pregnancy issue, not a sick leave case.

Campaigners said the case, believed to be the first of its kind, was a breakthrough for establishing real equality of opportunity for women whose working lives are affected by pregnancy and childbirth. If a woman takes time off because of pregnancy or has given birth and is then sacked the law is clear that this is sexual discrimination. However, it was unclear whether women who had to take time off because of issues such as miscarriages or ectopic pregnancy would be covered by the legislation.

Hilary Slater, lawyer for the Equal Opportunities Commission, said: "The tribunal in this case has clearly shown that sex discrimination and unfair dismissal rights apply to women who are adversely treated because of absence due to pregnancy-related conditions and illness, including such sad events such as ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage, in the same ways as other pregnancy related issues."

Pauline Berry, 29, from Yorkshire, had been working as a warehouse operative for more than six months for Potter Group's branch in Selby, and had just been offered a permanent post when she was rushed to hospital with an ectopic pregnancy.

Ectopic pregnancies, which can be fatal, occur when the egg is fertilised outside the womb."My ovarian tube were ruptured and I was bleeding heavily. The doctors said I only had five minutes to live, so I was operated on immediately. I was extremely frightened and in a lot of pain," said Mrs Berry. She was in hospital for a week and got medical certificates to cover her subsequent sick leave.

However, on her return home she received a letter saying that the firm had withdrawn her permanent job offer. "I was devastated. I had lost a baby, had almost died and on top of that lost my job," said Mrs Berry. The tribunal decided she was unfairly dismissed and awarded a high level of injury to feeling compensation because Mrs Berry had been deeply upset by the sacking.

Sacking because of pregnancy is the biggest reason women contact the commission. Last year it received 900 complaints from women who believed they had been sacked because of their pregnancy. In a recent commission survey of women who had asked for help with pregnancy-related claims, 34 per cent were dismissed or threatened with dismissal when they told their employer they were pregnant, 28 per cent before they went on maternity leave, 18 per cent while they were on maternity and 3 per cent when they returned.

tA former detective has been awarded pounds 193,000 in compensation after she was sexually harassed by her boss who then penalised her for rejecting his advances. Deborah Stubbs, 38, who served with Lincolnshire Police, told an employment tribunal that she became so humiliated that she stopped wearing skirts to work. The payment was awarded against the force and Det Sgt Derek Walker, who continues to serve.