Metropolitan Police v Keohane: unfavourable treatment during pregnancy

Metropolitan Police v Keohane: unfavourable treatment during pregnancy

Head of Employment Law, Ted Flanagan, discusses whether the removal of a dog from a police dog handler due to pregnancy was unfavourable treatment.

PC Keohane was a dog handler and she handled two 'narcotics' dogs. In October 2010, PC Keohane informed her employer that she was pregnant. So she couldn’t be deployed on operational duties for safety reasons.

A decision was taken to reallocate her search dog. This was her second pregnancy within 17 months. Her search dog was needed elsewhere to meet operational needs and had before been inactive for 9 months during her first pregnancy. A further decision was taken in October 2011 not to reallocate the dog to her on her return to work.

The Employment Tribunal found that the dog's removal, and the refusal to return it to the officer before the end of her maternity leave, amounted to direct discrimination on grounds of her sex.

The decision was appealed and the EAT noted that the Police’s policy exposed female officers, (but not male colleagues) to a 'real risk' of their dogs being reallocated and consequential effects on their remuneration and career progression. The EAT found that the policy was capable of amounting to indirect, as well as direct, discrimination as it had a differential impact on women as a group.

What this means for you

Although, on the facts, this is an unusual case, it highlights the difficulties employers can get into when making decisions arising from a pregnancy.

This case is a useful reminder for employers that they need to tread carefully or take advice when making decision relating to an employee’s pregnancy or maternity leave.

Need advice? We can help you

Call Ted Flanagan now on 01482 324252 or email eff@gosschalks.co.uk

You can find out more about our Employment Law services here.

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