Fixed-Term Contract Employee & Pregnancy Dismissal

The dismissal of an employee who is pregnant is considered an automatically unfair dismissal which is contrary to S. 6 (2)(f) of the Unfair Dismissal Act, which states that:

The dismissal of an employee shall be deemed, for the purposes of this Act, to be an unfair dismissal if it results wholly or mainly from one or more of the following:

(f) the employee’s pregnancy, attendance at ante-natal classes, giving birth or breastfeeding or any matters connected therewith,

(g) the exercise or proposed exercise by the employee of a right under the Maternity  (Protection Act 1994 to any form of protective leave or natal care absence , within the meaning of Part IV of that Act, or to time -off from work to attend ante-natal classes in accordance with section 15A (inserted by Section 8 of the Maternity Protection (Amendment) Act 2004) or to time off from work or a reduction of working hours for breastfeeding in accordance with Section 15B (inserted by section 9 of the Maternity Protection (Amendment) Act 2004, of the first mentioned Act.”

End of the Fixed-Term Period in the Employment Contract :

What happens though if a pregnant employee’s contract expires as per the term in the contract ?. 

Is this an unfair dismissal of an employee who is pregnant ?.

S. 2 of the Unfair Dismissal Act states the following in relation to dismissals and fixed-term contracts:

(2) This Act shall not apply in relation to—

( b) dismissal where the employment was under a contract of employment for a fixed term or for a specified purpose (being a purpose of such a kind that the duration of the contract was limited but was, at the time of its making, incapable of precise ascertainment) and the dismissal consisted only of the expiry of the term without its being renewed under the said contract or the cesser of the purpose and the contract is in writing, was signed by or on behalf of the employer and by the employee and provides that this Act shall not apply to a dismissal consisting only of the expiry or cesser aforesaid.

Case Example for Fixed-Term Contract Employee & Pregnancy Dismissal

The complainant employee was on a fixed-term contract and notified staff members she was pregnant. She complainant’s contract was not renewed and she was not given a reason for this.

She felt as if she was treated differently due to her pregnancy and also submitted that she had been treated less favourably as a fixed-term worker than a comparable permanent employee.

The employer denied that the Complainant was dismissed due to her pregnancy or was discriminated against by comparison with employees on contracts of indefinite duration.

The Adjudicator/decision-maker found in favour of the employee and that she was unfairly dismissed by her employer and entitled to monetary relief.

The Adjudication officer considered the applicable case law, the Labour Court decision in McBrierty v NUI Galway EDA091, the decision of the Court of Justice in Melgar v Ayuntamiento de Los Barrios (C-438/99) and Directive 92/85/EC. In Melgar the Court considered the case-law in Dekker (C-177/88) and Mahlburg (C-207/98) which restated that non-renewal of a fixed-term contract of a pregnant woman amounts to a refusal to engage a pregnant woman contrary to the Directive.

There is no prohibition against fixed-term contracts of employment expiring which are not renewed by employers, unless the non-renewal is motivated by the worker’s state of pregnancy.

Disclaimer for this Fixed-Term Contract Employee & Pregnancy Dismissal Article

Please be advised that the above-mentioned material is intended as an overview and as a broad out-line of the topic discussed. It should not be considered as complete and comprehensive legal advice, nor act as an appropriate substitute. Legal advice should be sought from a solicitor prior to relying on anything in this article.

Due care has been taken in the publication of this article and we do not accept legal liability as a result of reliance on any material covered in the above article.