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CJEU decision protects workinng mothers

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In the case of Jessy Saint Prix v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (case C-507/12) the Court of Justice of the European Union has found that a woman who gives up work because of the constraints of pregnancy and early maternity can retain the status of a ‘worker’, as long as she goes back to work within a reasonable time.

Ms Saint Prix worked in the UK as a teaching assistant for 18 months. She then had to stop work because of the demands of her pregnancy.  3 months after the birth of her child, she went back to work.  The Department of Work and Pensions refused her claim for income support because having given up work she had no “right to reside” in the UK.

‘Worker’ status is a key basis of the right to reside in another European member state.  The Secretary of State had stuck resolutely to the position that only women who actually took ‘maternity leave’ (i.e. remained employees during time off to have a child) could keep their worker status.  Due to the fact that a right to reside is essential to claim income support in the UK, European women who left work because of the demands of childbirth and early childcare could not claim benefits available to British women in the same position.

It is also important in that losing the right to reside in order to have a baby very often ‘stops the clock’ in counting time in the UK that can count towards a right of permanent residence for European women and their families.

Although the case was founded on the effects of UK law, the Court's decision should benefit women working across Europe