Northern Ireland

Pregnant woman 'unfairly dismissed' rules industrial tribunal

Laura Gruzdaite standing arms folded Image copyright Equality Commission
Image caption Laura Gruzdaite said her dismissal had caused a lot of stress

A woman sacked when she was 20-weeks pregnant has won her unfair dismissal case and been awarded almost £28,000.

Laura Gruzdaite, 26, lost her job at McGrane Nurseries, in Tandragee, two days after an antenatal appointment.

Despite telling managers about the scan, they accused her of "skipping work" and said she would be needing "more days off".

The County Armagh firm apologised to Mrs Gruzdaite and said the "situation should never have occurred".

An industrial tribunal, which heard the case in July, unanimously found Mrs Gruzdaite was discriminated against and dismissed for a reason connected to her pregnancy.

It found she had been "treated negatively" following her pregnancy announcement and "unreasonably questioned" about her absences when attending antenatal appointments.

Image copyright Andrew Matthews
Image caption Mrs Gruzdaite worried her stress about the dismissal "could cause complications or even a miscarriage"

When Mrs Gruzdaite and her husband started work at McGrane Nurseries, a flower and plant wholesaler in County Armagh, in January 2018, the Lithuanian national was given a blank contract to sign, with no start or end dates.

She thought she was coming to Northern Ireland for a permanent job and at no point was she told it was a seasonal job.

'Cause complications'

While she and her husband were at their 20-week scan on 10 October, the couple's employers held a meeting during which a number of seasonal workers were given one week's notice.

The couple were informed they were part of this group on 12 October.

Mrs Gruzdaite said she was very upset by the decision and worried the stress about the dismissal "could cause complications or even a miscarriage".

"We were waiting for our child to come into this world but both of us were unemployed and had no additional income," she said.

Image copyright Equality Commission
Image caption Mrs Gruzdaite said no woman should "lose her job because she is pregnant"

Mrs Gruzdaite's case was supported by the Equality Commission. Her husband has since found other work and she is caring for their baby.

"No woman should lose her job because she is pregnant and it is important that women challenge such treatment," she added.

Dr Michael Wardlow, chief commissioner of the Equality Commission, said pregnancy discrimination was "still all too common".

"In spite of the legislation being in place for more than 40 years, some employers still seem to be unaware of the law and the consequences of breaching it," he added.

McGrane Nurseries said it had engaged a human resources firm and was working with the Equality Commission to implement a "series of policies and practices to ensure we meet the highest standards in relation to the issues highlighted in the judgement of this case".