How to take disciplinary action against an employee during pregnancy or maternity leave

Knowing how to take disciplinary action against an employee during pregnancy or maternity leave is crucial if an employer is to avoid a complaint of discrimination.

Below, we highlight some of the key points employers need to have in mind when considering disciplinary action in a pregnancy or maternity situation:

  • Bear in mind that there is nothing to prevent you taking disciplinary action against an employee during pregnancy or maternity leave, so long as you take care to avoid discrimination and are sure that disciplinary action is appropriate in the circumstances.
  • Take care to ensure that the disciplinary action is not being taken for a reason related to pregnancy, childbirth or absence on maternity leave, and ensure that an employee on maternity leave is not disadvantaged because of her absence from the workplace.
  • Ensure that the disciplinary policy is applied fairly and consistently, and that its application is necessary in the circumstances.
  • Remember that the disciplinary procedure applies throughout both ordinary maternity leave and additional maternity leave.
  • In deciding where and when to hold a disciplinary hearing, remember that the period of compulsory maternity leave must be avoided.
  • If disciplinary action in relation to an employee who is pregnant or on maternity leave is necessary, notify the employee without undue delay.
  • Remember that the statutory right to be accompanied continues to apply during both ordinary maternity leave and additional maternity leave and that you may wish to be more flexible than usual regarding possible companions.
  • Take into account that there is nothing to prevent you dismissing an employee during pregnancy or maternity leave, provided that you have followed the correct procedures and the dismissal is not for a discriminatory reason.
  • Remember that, where a woman who is pregnant or on maternity leave is dismissed, she will be entitled to 39 weeks’ statutory maternity pay, provided that she was still employed in the qualifying week.
  • Consider whether or not any action is necessary when an employee who was subject to disciplinary proceedings returns to work after maternity leave.

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