Discrimination: Dismissal after end of maternity period

11 March 2014

Does dismissal for absences due to post-natal depression arising after maternity leave amount to sex and/or pregnancy and maternity discrimination under s.13 or s.18 of the Equality Act 2010?

No, held the EAT in Lyons v DWP JobCentre Plus.

Daniel Barnett’s Employment Law Bulletin summarises the case:

By being dismissed, the Claimant was treated unfairly for a pregnancy-related illness. However, unfavourable treatment only amounts to discrimination under s.18 of the Equality Act 2010 if it occurs between the beginning of pregnancy and the end of maternity leave (the protected period). As the Claimant was dismissed after the protected period her claim under s.18 failed.

The Claimant's claim for direct sex discrimination under s.13 of the Equality Act 2010 also failed. Following the ECJ case of Brown v Rentokil, the EAT held that if a woman suffers a pregnancy-related illness which extends beyond the period of her maternity leave, the employer is entitled to take into account the period of absence after the maternity leave and compare that period with any period of sickness of a man.