Can an employer terminate the contract of an employee on maternity leave?
It is automatically unfair to dismiss an employee or select them for redundancy either because they are pregnant or have given birth or because they have exercised their 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 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 their pregnancy or maternity leave must be provided with a written statement explaining the reasons for their dismissal.