Caution When Criteria Selects Pregnant Women For Redundancy

Author:Ms Alicia Compton
Profession:William Fry Solicitors
 
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Employers need to ensure that the selection criteria used in

redundancies are clear and objective, to counter any allegation of

unfair selection or discrimination which may arise. In a recent

decision the Labour Court awarded €20,000 to a pregnant

woman who was selected for redundancy.

The Court found that the matrix which had been used was

unsatisfactory as it was "complex, opaque, subjective and open

to manipulation in order to achieve a particular result". As

the employer could not clearly show that the selection of the

employee was not on the grounds of the pregnancy the Court decided

that the employer had discriminated against the employee on the

grounds of gender and family status, and that a discriminatory

dismissal had occurred.

The matrix involved a number of criteria of which five were

relevant:

skills and experience in current role;

occupation and qualifications;

cooperativeness;

commitment and using own initiative; and

future potential.

The employee, who was 7 months pregnant at the time, was

informed that she was the person chosen for redundancy as the

lowest scoring individual on the matrix. She was notified that she

could appeal but she did not.

The employee referred a claim to the Equality Tribunal that she

had been discriminated against on the grounds of gender and family

status under the Equality Acts. The Equality Tribunal held that the

employer discriminated against the employee and awarded her

€30,000 in compensation. The employer then appealed the

decision to the Labour Court which established, among other

matters, that:

the basis for the matrix and its method of calculation was not

clear;

the rules around the selection matrix specified that the line

manager was the appropriate person to complete the matrix. This did

not happen in the case of the Finance Department as the Line

Manager was included in the list of "at risk employees";

and

special protection against dismissal exists during pregnancy

and, only in the most exceptional circumstances not connected with

the...

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