Brown v Rentokil Ltd: IHCS 10 Mar 1995

Mrs Brown was employed by Rentokil as a driver, transporting and changing ‘Sanitact’ units in shops. In her view, it was heavy work. She told Rentokil that she was pregnant. She had difficulties associated with the pregnancy. From 16 August 1990 onwards, she submitted a succession of four-week certificates mentioning various pregnancy-related disorders. She did not work again after mid-August 1990. Rentokil’s contracts stipulated that, if an employee was absent because of sickness for more than 26 weeks continuously, he or she would be dismissed. On 9 November 1990, Rentokil told her, and confirmed in writing, that half of the 26-week period had run and that her employment would end on 8 February 1991 if, following an independent medical examination, she had not returned to work by then.
She did not go back to work. The parties agree that there was never any question of her being able to return to work before the end of the 26-week period. By letter of 30 January 1991, which took effect on 8 February 1991, she was accordingly dismissed while pregnant. Her child was born on 22 March 1991.
Held: As a preliminary conclusion, it was not sex discrimination where a woman dismissed for absences from illness arising out of pregnancy, but not actual pregnancy. Since the Court of Justice had drawn a clear distinction between pregnancy and illness attributable to pregnancy, Mrs Brown, whose absence was due to illness and who had been dismissed on account of that illness, could not succeed.


Times 10-Mar-1995


Sex Discrimination Act 1975 1(1), Employment Protection (Consolidation) Act 1978 33

Cited by:

Appeal from – ReversedBrown v Rentokil Ltd ECJ 30-Jun-1998
Dismissal for any illness associated with pregnancy is for a sex related reason, and is discriminatory, and unlawful irrespective of the contractual right being otherwise applied equally to men suffering illness. Pregnancy is a period during which . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Discrimination, European

Updated: 18 May 2022; Ref: scu.78708