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Workplace Relations Commission Award of €45,000- Refusal to Allow Pregnant Woman Work from Home and Transfer – Covid-19

In this Case Ann Doherty v Saint John of God Services ADJ-00029771, St. John of God Services was ordered to pay Ms.Doherty, a social care worker €45,000 for discriminating against her when not allowing her work from home during the Covid-19 pandemic.


Complainant (Employee) Case

In this case, Ms. Doherty (the complainant employee) argued that she was discriminated against on the grounds of family status in not being allowed work from home during the Covid-19 pandemic and in being moved role.

She outlined that she felt she was left with no option but to take sick leave during the pandemic as she was not given the same options as other parents or as other pregnant women such as reduced hours, availing of zoom calls to contact service users as an alternative to frontline services and in particular work from home.

The complainant outlined that she was to return to work in August 2020 and the respondent contacted her to say that she would be moved from a non-public facing role to a public-facing role even though she was 30 weeks pregnant at the time.

Respondent (Employer) Case

The respondent denied that the complainant was discriminated against on the family status ground or on any of the other grounds under the Employment Equality Act. The respondent submitted that day services closed as a result of the pandemic and staff redeployed and this took account of the staff member’s underlying conditions, childcare duties, and their circumstances.

Workplace Relations Commission Decision

The Adjudicator found “a striking feature of this case that the complainant gave such cogent and persuasive evidence” and that she “persistently and articulately raised the possibility of her working from home from March 2020 onwards” and that she “was also working from home despite being on sick leave especially in March…”.

The Adjudicator stated “ I can see no reason why the complainant could not have also been formally allowed work from home and be paid for doing so, given that she was already working from home, there was work to do and many others were so facilitated. The complainant has, therefore, established facts of such significance that raise the inference of discrimination”.

He also noted “…What is striking is the absence of any documentation setting out the respondent’s thinking about why the complainant could not work from home. It referred to an evaluation of each employee’s circumstances, for example any underlying conditions or childcare responsibilities. There is no document setting out how the complainant’s situation was assessed”.

The Adjudicator further observed

“In the absence of any such document and any direct evidence as to this process, I am unable to fathom how the complainant’s situation was assessed, as compared to those colleagues who did not, for example, have childcare responsibilities and who were allowed to work from home. The complainant was not facilitated with working from home when those colleagues without childcare responsibilities or who were not pregnant were facilitated. This is evidence not only of less favourable treatment on grounds of family status and gender, but that it was precisely because she had a one year old child at home and because she was pregnant that the complainant was denied the facility of working from home, a facility afforded to others. The respondent has, therefore, not rebutted the inference of discrimination”.


The Adjudicator concluded that “the effects of discrimination go far beyond any amount of financial loss. I note that the complainant was particularly vulnerable at this time”.

The Complainant was awarded €45,000 for the effects of discrimination and it was observed “The complainant was fully committed to the mission and to the clients of the respondent, but the respondent, in the midst of a pandemic, knowing of her pregnancy and childcare needs, denied her access to work and full pay for no lawful reason when the same facility was afforded to others”.

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