Finance

Healthcare institution must pay unjustly dismissed pregnant woman 40,000 euros

In August 2018, the woman started working as a caregiver for 24 hours a week at Antes, a mental health institution with locations in Rotterdam and the surrounding area. At the end of March 2019, she was told that her employment contract would not be extended.

No renewal

According to the health care facility, the woman had not met the requirements for the position. In a number of cases, for example, she would have arrived too late, left too early or checked out too late. She also allegedly did not perform some work properly and did not achieve the required number of hours.

The employee acknowledged that she had been less deployable during her employment for Antes, but emphasized that this had been the result of her pregnancy. In July 2019 she went to court to protest against her forced departure.

Lawsuit lost first

Initially, the woman drew the short straw. In October 2019, the Rotterdam court ruled that Antes had not put her on the dyke as a result of her pregnancy.

The care institution did not have to pay the woman the severance payments she had demanded. In addition, the woman paid for 721 euros in legal costs from her former employer.

But the employee did not leave it at that, and appealed. A decision made public yesterday shows that the Court of Appeal in The Hague did agree with the woman last month.

Still severance pay

According to the court, it was established from a witness hearing that the care institution already knew in September 2018 that the woman was pregnant, but did not do enough to adjust her schedule accordingly.

According to the court, the dissatisfaction that arose with the woman during this period is not due to her, but to the employer. Because Antes acted seriously culpably in doing so, the care institution must pay the woman a gross severance payment of 40,000 euros.

Pregnancy discrimination is common

Pregnancy discrimination is prohibited in the Netherlands, but is nevertheless common. Following a recent study, the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights calls it ‘a problem that continues unabated’.

According to the study Pregnant and work; worryingly, 43 percent of women who are active in the labor market and who have had a child in the past four years have experienced situations that indicate pregnancy discrimination.

That percentage is about the same as in previous measurements from 2016 and 2012. A large part of this discrimination appears to be caused by not renewing an employment contract.

Unacceptable

The then State Secretary for Social Affairs and Employment Tamara van Ark announced last year after parliamentary questions that he regarded this as a serious problem. “It is unacceptable that a pregnancy leads to discrimination or tension in the workplace,” she said. “Pregnancy should be a positive and as carefree time as possible.”

The State Secretary also called it “a major problem for society when women are hindered by pregnancy discrimination in their participation in the labor market and this encourages inequality.”

Proof is difficult

Women who want to report their experiences with pregnancy discrimination can contact the local anti-discrimination agency. They can then advise on and support you in possible follow-up steps. For example, women can go to the Institute for Human Rights or the civil court.

Van Ark did acknowledge that it is “extremely complex for victims to demonstrate that there has been pregnancy discrimination.”

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