Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)
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Commission supports legal victory for pregnant woman

A woman who was dismissed from her job in a care home because she was pregnant has won a discrimination case against her former employer.

The Commission funded the case of Geraldine Furbear who claimed she was dismissed from her job at a Heddmara Limited care home during her probationary period because she was pregnant.

The Employment Tribunal in London decided she had suffered discrimination and awarded her nearly £20,000.

In July 2009 Ms Furbear was offered a job with Heddmara Limited in one of their care homes.  She was employed as a care assistant helping adults with learning disabilities.  She informed the manager at the time she accepted the job that she was pregnant.

During her probationary period, Ms Furbear was unable to carry out the full range of duties, such as heavy lifting, because of the effects of her pregnancy. This caused some resentment among other staff members. She was also denied time off for her antenatal appointments, permission to use a lift in the building and, at times, was forced to lift patients.  She was also put under pressure to work weekends against her doctor’s advice.

Ms Furbear was dismissed nine weeks into her 12 week probationary period.

The Tribunal accepted her evidence, finding that Heddmara had dismissed her for reasons that clearly related to her pregnancy.  While some steps were taken to accommodate her pregnancy, these were not communicated to staff more broadly. The Tribunal said the onus was on the employer to tell staff what Ms Furbear could and could not do.

John Wadham, Group Director Legal, said:

“The Commission’s research has shown that pregnant women are amongst the most discriminated group of people in the workforce, with 30,000 losing their jobs each year as a result of their pregnancy.

"Employers who make small and reasonable adjustments to accommodate the needs of their pregnant employees can continue to reap the benefits of their hard work and dedication. This judgment should serve as a reminder of what is expected of all employers, particularly those in this growing and female dominated sector.


For more press information contact the Commission’s media office on 020 3117 0255, out of hours 07767 272 818.

For general enquiries please contact the Commission’s national helpline: England 0845 604 6610, Scotland 0845 604 5510 or Wales 0845 604 8810.

Notes to Editors

Geraldine Furbear and Heddmara Ltd - Case number 2340258/09

The Equality and Human Rights Commission:

The Commission is a statutory body established under the Equality Act 2006, which took over the responsibilities of Commission for Racial Equality, Disability Rights Commission and Equal Opportunities Commission. It is the independent advocate for equality and human rights in Britain. It aims to reduce inequality, eliminate discrimination, strengthen good relations between people, and promote and protect human rights. The Commission enforces equality legislation on age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion and belief, sex, sexual orientation, and encourages compliance with the Human Rights Act. It also gives advice and guidance to businesses, the voluntary and public sectors, and to individuals.

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