July 2014 More on EEA Nationals, Worker Status & Pregnancy


In a new judgment, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has decided that an EU national who left work due to pregnancy retained her worker status.

In Jessy Saint Prix v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Case C‑507/12), Ms Saint Prix, a French national, came to the UK in July 2006 and worked in various jobs between September 2006 and August 2007. She then started a course, but gave it up when she became pregnant.

Ms Saint Prix worked again between January and March 2008, but had to give up work when six months pregnant because she found her work too strenuous. She claimed income support on 18 March 2008, but the claim was refused on the basis that she did not have a right to reside in the UK.

On 21 August 2008, three months after the premature birth of her child, Ms Saint Prix returned to work.

The CJEU was asked to decide whether a woman who gives up work, or seeking work, because of the physical constraints of the late stages of pregnancy and the aftermath of childbirth is a ‘worker’ for the purposes of Article 45 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) and Article 7 of EC Directive 2004/38 .

The CJEU notes that Article 7(3) of EC Directive 2004/38 - which sets out categories of people no longer in employment who retain worker status - does not expressly envisage the case of a woman who is unable to work because of the physical constraints caused by late stages of her pregnancy and the aftermath of childbirth.

The CJEU also says that case law of the Court has consistently held that pregnancy must be distinguished from illness and that, as a result, a woman in the situation of Ms Saint Prix cannot be regarded as a person temporarily unable to work as the result of an illness, in accordance with Article 7(3)(a) of the directive.

However, the CJEU goes on to say that it does not follow that, in such circumstances, a citizen of the Union who does not fulfil the conditions laid down in that article is, therefore, systematically deprived of worker status. This is because Article 7(3) does not contain an exhaustive list of the circumstances in which a migrant worker who is no longer in employment can retain worker status. In addition, EC Directive 2004/38, which expressly seeks to facilitate the exercise of the rights of an EU citizen to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States, cannot, by itself, limit the scope of the concept of worker within the meaning of the TFEU.

The CJEU also notes that it is clear from the case law of the Court that classification as a worker within the meaning of the TFEU, and the rights deriving from such status, do not necessarily depend on the actual or continuing existence of an employment relationship.

In these circumstances, the fact that the physical constraints of the late stages of pregnancy and the immediate aftermath of childbirth require a woman to give up work during the period needed for recovery does not, in principle, deprive her of the status of worker, provided she returns to work or finds another job within a reasonable period after confinement.

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