Exclusion from a Training Course because of Maternity Leave Constitutes Unfavorable Treatment
Dr. Christopher Jordan, Partner, Anke Kuhn, Senior Associate, and Pauline Moritz, Associate, CMS Hasche Sigle, Cologne, Germany
Automatic exclusion of an employee from a training course because she has taken compulsory maternity leave constitutes unfavorable treatment contrary to EU law, the European Court of Justice (the "EJC") held on March 6, 2014 (Case C-595/12).1
The Italian administrative court asked the ECJ whether the directive on equal treatment of men and women precludes a national rule that excludes women on maternity leave from completing required training that is a precondition for permanent appointment as a deputy commissioner. The EJC found that, under European Union law, less favorable treatment of pregnant women on maternity leave constitutes gender discrimination. A woman on maternity leave must have the right to return to her previous job or an equivalent job and benefit from any improvement in working conditions that she would have benefitted from during her absence.
While the plaintiff's position in the case at hand as a probationary deputy commissioner was not compromised by her maternity leave and she was reinstated to her previous position, her exclusion from the vocational training course negatively affected her working conditions. The plaintiff's similarly situated colleagues who attended the course were promoted to a higher grade of deputy commissioner, resulting in increased salary.
In order to achieve substantive equality between men and women, the competent authorities could provide, if appropriate, equivalent parallel remedial courses for a female worker who returns from maternity leave. This would enable her admission to the examination within the prescribed period and promoted without delay to a higher grade, which would allow the career development of a female worker to not be unfairly hindered as compared to her male colleagues admitted to the mandatory course.