The European Commission has come under fire following its decision not to allow a leading UK DNA scientist and entrepreneur to speak at a conference because she is pregnant. The body which is responsible for all European equal opportunities legislation, invited Dr “Sam” Decombel to speak at a conference in Brussels. However, upon discovering “Sam” was in fact “Samantha” and pregnant, the European Commission withdrew its invitation.

The European Commission invited Dr Decombel to speak at a conference on entrepreneurship and research in Brussels on 26 and 27 November. Dr Decombel is a leading scientist specialising in the use of an individual’s DNA to develop personalised diet and exercise plans. Her companies, FitnessGenes and PlayDNA (which was featured on BBC2s Dragons’ Den), have received public acclaim.

As Dr Decombel would be six months’ pregnant by then, she explained to the European Commission she would need to travel to Brussels by train. Dr Decombel was then told she could not participate in the conference because the European Commission were not “very enthusiastic to take a risk for [Dr Decombel’s] health making [her] travel to Brussels at the late stage of [her] pregnancy”. Dr Decombel confirmed that she is in good health and not suffering any complications in her pregnancy, but the European Commission refused to reconsider its position.

Dr Decombel has stated “turning away a pregnant speaker, who is in excellent health, seems to me to be the perfect demonstration of why this is still such an issue for many mothers, and the absolute opposite of what I would hope the European Commission would want to convey. I am incredibly surprised to find that this is an attitude that still exists within a respected and apparently forward-thinking public body.

Michelle Last of Keystone Law who is representing Dr Decombel, has stated “Whilst pregnancy and maternity discrimination is reportedly on the increase, it is rare to see clear evidence of overt discrimination such as this. Of greater public concern is the fact that this case concerns the European Commission; the very body which is meant to be at the forefront in the protection of working mothers such as Dr Decombel. The European Commission should be setting an example, but not of this kind.

Dr Decombel is currently contemplating taking legal action against the European Commission.

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