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I have been in full-time employment for the last six years. I am currently five months pregnant and have been informed by my employer that my post has been deleted as part of a department restructure. I was invited to a 121 consultation which I attended and the consultation period lasted for two weeks. Unfortunately, I have been experiencing severe pregnancy-related sickness and I will not be able to attend the interview for a ring-fenced job.
My question is would my employer be able to make me redundant if I can’t attend the interview. My sickness is pregnancy related and the issues I have started before I was informed about a restructure. If I was on maternity leave, which I can legally start in approximately nine weeks I would have been automatically offered the ring-fenced position without having to attend an interview. Would I have a case for unfair dismissal?
You are protected by law under the Equality Act from the start of your pregnancy until the end of maternity leave. This is known as the ‘protected period’ and during this time your employer cannot treat you unfavourably.
Unfavourable treatment during the ‘protected period’ could take the form of being denied the opportunity for promotion or training or being demoted.
This would include disadvantaging you due to any pregnancy-related illness. Presumably your employer was already aware of your severe sickness as you have stated that you have been suffering with this for a while.
You should discuss your concerns about being unable to attend the interview due to your pregnancy-related sickness and your employer is legally obligated to ensure that you are not disadvantaged as a result of this and provide an alternative suitable date.
If they are unable to do this and you are not able to attend the set interview due to being genuinely ill and this is directly related to your pregnancy, it would amount to unlawful discrimination due to reasons connected to pregnancy. If you are subsequently made redundant as a result, you would have a claim for unfair dismissal.
This is not an uncommon scenario, unfortunately, with the Employment Tribunal accepting no less than 900 claims relating to either detriments or unfair dismissal due to employees’ pregnancy last year alone.
I would advise that you have a discussion with your employer about your sickness with a view to finding a solution which takes your illness into account but allows you to attend a fair interview.
If following this conversation your employer does not accommodate you in these circumstances, I would recommend that you seek legal advice and would be happy to discuss your situation and rights further with you.