Firing a pregnant employee in Greece prohibited
Firing during pregnancy and for a period of eighteen months post-partum is prohibited in Greece, even with an invalid or non-existent contract of employment.
The woman, due to her gender, is at a disadvantage to the man in the labor market. Particularly during her pregnancy and the reduced workload she can accommodate, the chances of a worker's dismissal increase because employers want to reduce the payroll burden and replace her with a more productive employee. Fortunately for women, Greek labor law limits and employer's ability to fire a pregnant woman and protects her job security during and after pregnancy.
The termination of the contract of employment during pregnancy
Pursuant to Article 15 of Law 1483/1984, the termination of the employment relationship between an employee by her employer is prohibited, both during her pregnancy and for a period of eighteen months’ post-partum, or during her absence for a longer period of time due to illness caused by pregnancy or childbirth.
Under the above rule, Greek employment law provides increased protection to the working mother, regardless whether her employer has knowledge of the pregnancy (Single-Member First Instance Court of Athens 807/2008).
Firing of a pregnant woman with an invalid employment contract
Additionally, if there is an invalid employment relationship, dismissal during pregnancy is forbidden, as a simple employment relationship is recognized irrespective of the validity of the contract (Patras Appellate Court, decision No 352/1006). According to the Supreme Court of Greece (decision No 892/2003), the law deliberately refers to an "employment relationship" rather than an employment contract to extend the protection of pregnancy to women working under an invalid employment contract, or even without having previously entered into a contract. This protects the pregnant woman's job position during her absenteeism.
A pregnant woman who is working under an invalid employment contract is entitled to payment of redundancy and default compensation. The employment relationship, although invalid, remains active, and the employer becomes in default of payment. This doesn’t apply to other cases of termination of an invalid employment contract, in which the dismissed person is entitled only to legal compensation.
A pregnant woman is also protected if the fetus is stillborn or dies shortly after birth (Supreme Court, decision No 1362/2009).
Dismissal of a pregnant woman for a significant reason
The above rule is not absolute. The law gives the employer the right to dismiss the pregnant woman for a significant reason. However, the “significant reason” is a vague legal concept, the limits of which are determined by the Court in each case. Greek law defines significant reason as any incident that, in objective judgment, makes it impossible for the employer to continue the employment relationship. For example, significant reasons according to the case-law include the non-observance of the employer's instructions, the material breach of the contractual obligations of the employee resulting in damage to the employer, and the closure of the employer's business. Reduction of the employee's performance due to pregnancy is not considered to be a significant reason (Thessaloniki Appellate Court, decision No 342/2015). In addition, according to article 10 of the Presidential Decree 176/1997, the employer who dismisses a pregnant woman for a significant reason must justify the termination of her employment contract in writing and inform the competent Labor Inspectorate Services of the Prefectural Administrations.
The time of termination of the employment contract
The time of termination of the employment contract is the notice of the dismissal and not the termination itself. Therefore, if the notice of dismissal is served to the employee before the beginning of the pregnancy, but the termination of the contract occurs during the pregnancy, then the dismissal is entirely lawful, since only the notice is the decisive point.
Firing of a pregnant woman with a fixed-term employment contract
A pregnant worker in a fixed-term employment relationship enjoys far less legal protection than the worker in an open-ended employment relationship. If the employee is employed on a fixed-term contract, the prohibition on dismissal has the same duration as the employment contract and cannot be extended beyond the expiration of the contract.
Rights of an unfairly dismissed pregnant woman
A worker who was dismissed during her pregnancy or within eighteen months after giving birth may bring an action for invalid dismissal, and claim the invalidity of the unfair dismissal, her reinstatement at her job position, and the default remuneration, since the employment relationship is considered to be valid. This action is subject to a three-month period from the termination of the employment relationship, while the case-law asserts that the time limit starts from the notification of the dismissal and not necessarily from the serving of the written termination of the employment contract (Supreme Court, decision No 197/2009).
In conclusion, Greece maintains an elementary level of maternity protection by protecting pregnant women from dismissal, while providing for the exception of a "significant reason," which can sometimes be misused by the employer.
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