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Employers 'targeting new mums' for redundancy

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Geraldine McGahey

Geraldine McGahey

Geraldine McGahey

People with disabilities and new mums are being targeted for redundancy or forced back to work before they are ready, the Equality Commissioner has warned.

Chief Commissioner Geraldine McGahey said fairness in the workplace was being undermined by Covid-19.

She said most calls were about sex and disability discrimination.

They include an employee with a disability who was made to take leave without pay after their boss refused to make changes so they could come back to work.

Women have been furloughed at the rate of their lower, maternity pay.

They have also had calls about age discrimination - a loyal worker of more than 40 years who asked their boss for redundancy was rejected and told to retire.

Ms McGahey said: "We made a lot of progress - and we have taken a step backwards big time.

"Our role is to make sure that employers do not use the current crisis as an excuse for running roughshod over their employees and picking and choosing who they want to get rid of.

"The law is the law, and it is the law at all times."

Ms McGahey said Covid amplified the need for accessible childcare - which closed to all but key workers at the height of the pandemic.

One woman was not allowed to work from home after she returned from maternity leave - even though her colleagues were already doing it.

Ms McGahey added: "Potentially that's a case of sex discrimination because the availability of good quality childcare has the biggest impact on women.

"Was it because they (the employer) felt that they genuinely had the right to do it?

"Was the reason potentially a fear that this woman couldn't deliver when she had young children and a new baby at home?

"It's a bit incredulous that some employers would be so absent minded in regards to their obligation."

Disability activist Sean Fitzsimons said he feared for those who did not know their rights, or how to ask for help.

A Disability Action report co-authored by Mr Fitzsimons found 15 people with disabilities lost their jobs in the first weeks of the pandemic (four percent of those surveyed), and almost twice as many feared they could lose them yet.

He added: "Because Covid is going on, it doesn't set aside protections

Belfast Telegraph