Pregnant women and new mothers are normally afforded immunity from workplace dismissal under EU law. But a new ruling allows employers a possible workaround.
The European Court of Justice ruled on Thursday that pregnant and breastfeeding women in the European Union lose their protection from workplace dismissal in the event of a mass redundancy.
EU law normally bars employers from knowingly firing pregnant women from the start of their pregnancy until the end of their maternity leave, barring exceptional cases.
What the court ruled
The German Federation of Trade Unions (DGB) told DPA news agency it was disappointed with the ruling, but said pregnant women were still well protected under German law.
"In Germany, pregnant women can be dismissed in exceptional cases, but the highest state authority responsible for occupational health and safety must give its consent in individual cases, and the employer must have this consent before the dismissal is issued," said Helga Nielebock, head of the DGB legal department. "That's effective protection."
The original case: The ECJ ruled on the issue at the behest of a Spanish court, which was hearing the case of a Spanish woman who was dismissed by a bank in Catalonia as part of a mass redundancy at the end of 2013 while she was pregnant. Her employer had set the criteria for the redundancies nine months earlier, but the woman argued she was covered by EU law.
What the EU law says: The law in question is Directive 92/85/EEC, known as Pregnant Workers Directive 1992. The directive provides a series of workplace protections for women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or new mothers. The directive: