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Thinking of getting rid of a pregnant employee? Think again! Here's why

by , 06 May 2016
Discrimination in the workplace is generally considered intolerable in South African law, and this includes discrimination against pregnant employees.

But this doesn't stop employers from trying their luck.

But be careful if you're thinking along those lines! Because the chances are that you won't be able to get away with it.

In the following case, you'll see just what happened to an employer for trying his luck. See what you can learn from it and avoid falling into the same trap...

Case: Mnguni vs Gumbi (2004 6 BLLR 558)
What happened?
In this case, a pregnant receptionist (the applicant), who worked in a medical practice, complained that she was getting tired in the later stages of her pregnancy, which is a fairly common occurrence among women in the later stages of their pregnancies.
She then reported that she had been dismissed for it, while the employer (the respondent) denied this saying that she had merely been sent home, telling her to wait until he called her again to come back to work.
What were the facts of the case?
It was discovered that the medical practice had hired a new receptionist the next day, and that they didn't call her to return to work at an appropriate stage.  
What was determined?
Based on the facts of the case, it was clearly suggested that the employer had actually dismissed the applicant.
What happened to the employer?
The employer was found guilty of unfair discrimination, and was made to pay the applicant 24 months' remuneration.
What can you learn from this case?
It's very clear: You can't terminate a pregnant employee's contract, or refuse to re-hire her after her baby is born,
According to Section 77 (3) of the Labour Relations Act (LRA), you can't dismiss an employee for any reasons linked to her pregnancy.
What's more is that even if the evidence of dismissal isn't clear, a suggestion of it can be enough to deem your actions as unfair discrimination. It's looked at on a balance of probabilities.
*So be very careful when dealing with pregnant employees to ensure that you don't unfairly discriminate against them in the workplace.

PS: To learn all there is to know on unfair discrimination in the workplace, along with how to prevent it, page over to Chapter  D04  in your Labour Law for Managers handbook, or click here to order your copy today. 

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