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Disability discrimination: Denial of paid maternity leave after surrogate birth was discrimination

This report relates to 1 case(s)

Key points

In Murphy v Slough Borough Council and Governing Body of Langley Wood School the EAT holds:

  • Where a community school has responsibility for its own budget, a claimant in any employment law matter must bring his or her claim against the school governors, not against the local authority alone, even though the local authority may ultimately fund the school.
  • The correct test for disability-related discrimination is to look for the underlying or ultimate reason for the conduct complained of, which must be the disability, rather than look merely at the immediate cause of the discrimination which may not actually be the disability, but some intervening factor. Therefore, a mother of a baby born to a surrogate (used because of the biological mother's heart condition, which prevented her from giving birth herself), was discriminated against for a reason related to her disability in being denied paid maternity leave.
  • However, this disability-related discrimination was justified by financial constraints. Further, the budgetary constraints on the school were deemed relevant and sufficient to justify not making the "adjustment" of giving the employee paid leave following the birth of her baby to a surrogate mother. It fell within the "range of reasonable responses" of the employer in the circumstances and the tribunal was not entitled to substitute its own conclusion.