I have a pregnant employee however she seems to constantly have a negative attitude and this seems to be having an impact on workplace morale. Obviously we need to tread carefully however how do we deal with the situation sensitively?
Pregnancy is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. This means that an employee may bring a discrimination claim to tribunal if she is treated unfavourably during the protected period and the reason for being treated that way is the fact that she is pregnant. The protected period is the period which starts when she becomes pregnant and ends at the end of her maternity leave.
Having said that, it is a myth that a pregnant woman cannot be disciplined or dismissed. Provided that the employer can show that the treatment afforded to her, which she may claim to be unfavourable treatment, was not because of her pregnancy, the employer should not be open to risk of a discrimination claim. Clearly this behaviour is not worthy of a dismissal but things like this should not be left to fester.
You should begin by treating her as you would any other employee in terms of any procedure you follow. It is best to speak to the employee informally about her attitude and bring to her attention that you have noticed she is having a negative impact on the rest of the team. Ask her to come and see you but begin your conversation with her by enquiring how she is generally – she may be suffering particularly badly from morning sickness or other pregnancy related illnesses and this is then having an effect on her overall demeanour. Even if this is the case, it does not mean that you cannot bring her to task over your concerns. However, it may mean that you look at small things that may be in your control that could remove some of the barriers to a more positive attitude while she is pregnant.
If the employee has always had a negative attitude, then it is clear that her pregnancy has nothing to do with your decision to tackle it.
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