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Your questions answered: Can we dismiss a pregnant employee?

By Portner Press on September 6th, 2019
  1. Termination of Employment
  2. Dismissal

Q
We have a full-time employee who has worked with us for seven months.

Since she finished probation, she has started to not listen to instructions and not perform well. We keep telling her to improve, but she just won’t listen and has a bad attitude.

Early this week, she told her manager that she is pregnant.

Can we issue her with a warning letter? If she doesn’t improve after three warnings, can we terminate her?

If so, is there any special process we need be follow?

A
If you engage in any adverse action against an employee (meaning, in this case, issuing a warning or terminating employment) it must be for a valid reason such as poor performance.

Technically there is nothing wrong with managing the performance of a pregnant employee (see chapter H2 Performance Management of the Employment Law Practical Handbook) and terminating them if they do not respond to performance management, but there is a very obvious risk that they will bring a discrimination or unfair dismissal claim against you.

You must therefore assess the risk of the employee bringing a claim against you and your ability to defend that claim, meaning how well you can prove that the reason for the action was the poor performance rather than the pregnancy.

Before taking disciplinary action against an employee, talk to us first

Our free guidance at the Workplace Helpdesk can literally save you a fortune.

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