A pregnant police officer has won a case against her employer Devon and Cornwall Police for pregnancy discrimination and indirect discrimination at a recent Employment Tribunal.

Mrs Town told her employer she was pregnant in November 2017, a risk assessment confirmed she was fit to remain in her role with adjustments, however a week later she was informed she would begin working in the Crime Management Hub – an office-based department that dealt with low-level crime. Mrs Town was told that it was in line with “business need” and not due to her pregnancy.

An onset of anxiety and depression led Mrs Town to go on sick leave from 22 December 2017.  She claimed her ill-health was brought on by her employer’s decision to change her role.   She then returned to work in the Crime Management Hub on 9 February, from a desk in the response team’s office. She did return to the response team in May 2018 until she went on maternity leave in July, but also had to deal with “overflow” work from the Crime Management Hub.

Devon and Cornwall Police maintained Mrs Town’s pregnancy was not the reason for her change of role at the Tribunal hearing in December 2018.

“The decision had put Mrs Town at a disadvantage, had put her mental health at risk, and had ignored the risk assessment that was carried out when she announced her pregnancy” employment judge David Harris stated.

“It removed her from a working environment that she found particularly supportive, against the background of the miscarriage that she had recently suffered, and removed her from work that she valued and enjoyed.  Indeed, it was the very work that the claimant (Mrs Town) had joined the police to be able to do,”

The judgment adds that pregnant women were particularly disadvantaged by the police force’s policy that a person on restricted duties beyond two weeks would be considered for transfer to desk-based roles.

Danielle Ayres, Senior Employment Associate specialising in Maternity discrimination states “This unfortunately is a common occurrence.  Employers make decisions to change an employee’s role or take away responsibilities on account of their pregnancy.  In most cases, employers do this in good faith, thinking that they are helping to ease the burden whilst the employee is pregnant.  They may not however appreciate that the individual may not want or need those changes to be made.”

“There are certain roles that would of course require such changes,” Danielle continues “and that is why undertaking a risk assessment for a pregnant employee is so important, and to do this at regular junctions throughout the pregnancy in order to monitor the position.  Communication with an employee is also key to understand how they are feeling and what they can / can’t do.  Most women are able to continue to work, without any changes to their role / responsibilities until their maternity leave commences, however, others do need adjustments to be made to enable them to do so without risk to their health or that of their unborn baby.”

If you feel you have faced discrimination in the workplace you need to speak to one of our specialist solicitors. Contact our expert employment law team on 0161 930 5117 or e-mail employmentteam@gorvins.com

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