September 8, 2005

Pregnancy sickpay cuts not discrimination-EU court

STRASBOURG, France (Reuters) - Women whose salaries are cut
when they use up their sick leave because of pregnancy-related
complications are not the victims of sex discrimination, the
EU's top court ruled on Thursday.

Margaret McKenna, an Irish civil servant, exhausted her
yearly allowance of fully-paid sick leave during a difficult
pregnancy in 2000 and was put on half-pay.

She brought a case against her employer, the North Western
Health Board, arguing she was being discriminated against under
EU equality legislation since pregnancy only affects women.

McKenna said she was entitled to her full salary when off
sick due to her pregnancy.

But the European Court of Justice said that while pregnant
women who took sick leave were protected from being sacked
during pregnancy and when on maternity leave under EU law,
their employers could legally cut their pay.

"During an absence resulting from such an illness, a female
worker may thus suffer a reduction in her pay, provided that
she is treated in the same way as a male worker who is absent
on grounds of illness," the Luxembourg-based court said.

"(This is) provided the amount of payment made is not so
low as to undermine the objective of protecting pregnant

The judgment will be sent to the Labour Court in Ireland
for a final decision.