A “particularly vulnerable” worker who was refused permission by her employer to work from home while pregnant during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic has been awarded €45,000 in compensation by the WRC.
The adjudicating officer said the employer had denied the carer access to work and full pay ‘for no lawful reason’ and that in the circumstances, the redress had to be ‘proportionate, dissuasive and effective’.
At the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), Adjudicator Kevin Baneham ordered the employer to pay the carer under the Employment Equality Act for discriminating against her because she was a parent and pregnant at the time.
The Employment Equality Acts 1998 – 2015 outlaw discrimination in a wide range of employment and employment-related areas. These include recruitment and promotion; equal pay; working conditions; training or experience; dismissal and harassment including sexual harassment.
Discrimination is defined as less favourable treatment. An employee is said to be discriminated against if they are treated less favourably than another employee is treated, has been treated or would be treated, in a comparable situation.
In his findings, Mr Baneham found that the carer “was not facilitated with working from home when those colleagues without childcare responsibilities or who were not pregnant were facilitated”. Mr Baneham said: “This is evidence not only of less favourable treatment on grounds of family status and gender, but that it was precisely because she had a one-year-old child at home and because she was pregnant that the complainant was denied the facility of working from home, a facility afforded to others.”
Mr Baneham found that from March 2020 the carer should have been allowed to work from home until August 14, 2020, the date the carer was certified by her maternity hospital as unfit for work, including from home.
He found that he could see no reason why the carer “could not have also been formally allowed work from home and be paid for doing so”. Mr Baneham stated that “there was work to do and many others were so facilitated”.
She submitted that she was not given the same options as other parents or as other pregnant women. She said that colleagues were allowed to work at home, availing of zoom calls to contact service users as an alternative to frontline services.
In submissions, the employer denied that the carer was discriminated against on the family status ground or on any of the other grounds under the Employment Equality Act.
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