Returning mothers: The discrimination risk of getting your assessment wrong!
A recent case before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) heard a complaint from a nurse working in a hospital's accident and emergency unit. She had returned to work following her maternity leave and claimed that she had been discriminated against because the risk assessment done with respect to her as a breastfeeding worker had not complied with an EU directive that was intended to improve the health and safety of pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.
In this case (Otero Ramos v Servicio Galego de Saude) nurse Ramos was told, without any detailed explanation, that her work was “risk-free” and therefore she was refused a request for an adjustment in her working pattern to accommodate her breastfeeding. She claimed that this was sex discrimination because a risk assessment had not been completed properly and her case ultimately ended up at the CJEU.
The Court held that if a breastfeeding mother can show that a risk assessment was defective or not done, it gives rise to a clear case of discrimination. It would always be open to an employer to show that, in fact, the required risk assessment had been done in line with the relevant directive.
If you need more information about the health and safety of breastfeeding employees or want to know how to carry out such a risk assessment, see this FAQ section on the HSE website: http://www.hse.gov.uk/mothers/faqs.htm
Posted on 14 Nov 2017