Can an employer terminate the contract of an employee on maternity leave?
It is automatically unfair to dismiss an employee or select her for redundancy either because she is pregnant or has given birth or because she has exercised her statutory rights in pregnancy or maternity. Dismissal for these reasons would also be unlawful pregnancy and maternity discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. However, an employer can dismiss an employee on maternity leave if there is a fair reason for the dismissal that is not related to her maternity leave (ie one of the potentially fair reasons for dismissal under s.98 of the Employment Rights Act 1996), the decision to dismiss is reasonable in the circumstances and the employer follows a fair dismissal procedure. An employee who is dismissed during her pregnancy or maternity leave must be provided with a written statement explaining the reasons for her dismissal.