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No maternity discrimination after maternity leave

Lyons v DWP JobCentre Plus

The beginning of pregnancy is also the start of a woman’s protected period for employment law purposes. That means that right up until the end of her maternity leave she must not be treated unfavourably because of the pregnancy or because of any illness she suffers as a result of her pregnancy.

But what about unfavourable treatment, related to her pregnancy, that happens once maternity leave has ended?

Ms Lyons worked for JobCentre Plus. She suffered post-natal depression and, after returning from maternity leave, was dismissed. She brought discrimination claims based on pregnancy and maternity, and sex.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal held that her dismissal did amount to unfair treatment for a pregnancy-related illness. But because that treatment took place outside the protected period it wasn’t discrimination, so her pregnancy and maternity discrimination claim failed.

Her claim for direct sex discrimination also failed. Because Ms Lyons’ pregnancy-related illness extended beyond her maternity leave period, her employer was entitled to compare her post-maternity leave absence period with any period of sickness of a man.