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Employment Law Case Update: Town v The Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall Police

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Staff pregnancies can be a complicated area when it comes to reasonable adjustments. The case of Town v The Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall Police is one example.  Here, our Employment team reviews the case and highlights the importance of risk assessments and reasonable adjustments for pregnant employees.

Mrs Town was employed as a police constable by Devon and Cornwall Police (“the Police”) in the response team.  She fell pregnant in November 2017 and informed her line manager that she wished to remain in her current role until her maternity leave began.

The Police undertook a risk assessment, which confirmed that Mrs Town was able to remain in her role but with some adjustments. 

Recommendations such as working fewer night shifts, undertaking lower risk work, such as interviewing witnesses, and wearing plain clothes, were made in order to reduce the risks faced by Mrs Town. However, it was decided that at the 12 week point in Mrs Town’s pregnancy she would be moved to an office based department dealing with low risk crimes.

The move caused Mrs Town to suffer from anxiety and depression and she went off sick. Mrs Town’s illness was linked to the decision to move her to the Crime Management Hub. It was decided that following her return to work she would be able to carry out her new role but in the Response Team’s office to keep her in contact with her former colleagues. Mrs Town had specifically wanted to remain with them as they had supported her through a miscarriage in 2017.

A further risk assessment highlighted that Mrs Town had been suffering from stress, anxiety and stress-related migraines due to the move.

Mrs Town made claims in the Employment Tribunal (ET) of pregnancy discrimination and indirect discrimination. The ET found in her favour, ruling that she had been discriminated against on the grounds of her pregnancy and had suffered indirect discrimination.  The decision to move Mrs Town had put her at a disadvantage; her mental health was placed at risk and the Police had ignored the risk assessment that had been carried out previously.

The ET further found that the Police’s policy of requiring those on restricted duties for two weeks or more to be considered for a transfer to desk based roles placed pregnant woman in particular at a disadvantage.

This case outlines the complexity of adjustments made during staff pregnancies, and the importance of not only carrying out risk assessments but to act on the results of those, all while in consultation with the employee. 

If you have questions regarding an employee of yours who is pregnant, you can contact the Employment team today on 023 8071 7717 or email employment@warnergoodman.co.uk

ENDS

This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.