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Here are two instances when it's legal to dismiss a pregnant employee or an employee on maternity leave
Instance #1: You can dismiss a pregnant employee or employee on maternity leave if you find her guilty of misconduct and the dismissal's both substantively and procedurally fair, says the Practical Guide to Human Resources Management.
Example #1: You get a report accusing Mary who's pregnant of stealing petty cash. This comes to light after she's already gone on maternity leave.
You advise Mary of the incident while she's on maternity leave and tell her she needs to attend a disciplinary hearing at the end of her maternity leave.
After a disciplinary procedure you find her guilty and dismiss her.
Instance #2: Dismissal is fair if you base the reason for dismissal on operational requirements and you no longer need your employee to perform her duties i.e. retrenchment.
Example # 2: While your employee's on maternity leave, you tell her the company's retrenching staff due to operational requirements and that her position's likely to be affected.
You invite her to consult with the company and after the required consultation process you reach an agreement to retrench her once she's returned from maternity leave.
Your employee accepts a fair retrenchment package and notice pay. You also encourage her to apply for additional Unemployment Insurance for retrenchment purposes.
That's not all. Keep the following in mind if you want to dismiss a pregnant employee or an employee on maternity leave…
Don't get taken to the cleaners for unfair dismissal
Here's how to follow correct procedures even in the most complicated situations.
You're not allowed as an employer to give notice of termination of employment when your employee's on maternity leave.
This means, you must notify your employee about the termination of employment before she goes on maternity leave or when she comes back. In the two cases above, you'll have to notify your employee after she returns from maternity leave.
There you have it. These are the only two instances when you won't get into trouble for dismissing a pregnant employee or an employee on maternity leave.