Northern Ireland

Pregnancy discrimination: Three women settle claims for £15,500

Pregnant woman using a computer Image copyright Science Photo Library
Image caption The Equality Commission said women are "still being penalised for being pregnant in workplaces throughout Northern Ireland"

Three women who alleged they were subjected to pregnancy or maternity discrimination in the workplace have received settlements totalling £15,500.

After a job interview, one of the women was told her "personal arrangements with the new baby will make it impossible to carry out this role".

Another of the cases was settled by the Irish Football Association (IFA).

All three women were helped to pursue their separate claims by The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland.

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Media captionEileen Lavery said pregnant women or new mothers continue to experience difficulties in the workplace

Sarah Shilliday, Cherie White and Kelly McAtamney accepted financial settlements before their cases reached an industrial tribunal.

'Opportunity denied'

Ms Shilliday said her "childcare responsibilities" were discussed when she was interviewed for a management job with RJN Chemicals.

She later received an email from the firm that commented favourably on her suitability for the post, but added: "sadly I'm afraid your personal arrangements with the new baby will make it impossible to carry out this role".

"I was really upset when I received this email as it clearly indicated that the fact I had a child had influenced the decision not to appoint me," she said.

"I could have accepted not getting the job if that was because I wasn't the best candidate, but to have the opportunity denied because I am a mother is not acceptable."

Ms Shilliday's case was settled for £3,000.

The second case was brought against Medi Cosmetics by its former beauty therapist by Kelly McAtamney, who was pregnant and at risk of miscarriage.

She alleged the company would not adjust her duties to accommodate her doctor's advice that she needed to "stay off her feet" as much as possible.

"They would not allow me to sit down to perform my duties and when, failing that, a request for a period of maternity suspension was also refused, I had no option but to continue on sick leave," said Ms McAtamney.

"Subsequently I felt I had to resign."

She received a £4,500 settlement with no admission of liability.

'Persistent problem'

The Irish Football Association (IFA) settled a complaint from Cherie White for £8,000, without admission of liability.

Image caption The IFA paid £8,000 to settle a case with a woman who alleged she suffered discrimination while on maternity leave

Ms White alleged a number of temporary positions, including posts which had arisen while she was on maternity leave, had been made permanent.

"I'd worked for the IFA for a number of years on temporary contracts and I believed that, but for my maternity leave, I would have been in a position to be considered for one of the permanent posts," she said.

Eileen Lavery, who leads the Equality Commission's advice service, said pregnancy discrimination was a "persistent problem" and the most "common cause of complaint on the grounds of gender" the watchdog receives.

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