Employers who dismiss personnel or otherwise treat them unfavourably for reasons related to pregnancy, childbirth or maternity can expect severe financial and reputational consequences. That was certainly so in the case of a loyal and committed bar manager who was pregnant when she was sacked without notice.
Her employer asserted that she was dismissed for misconduct. However, an Employment Tribunal (ET) concluded that her pregnancy, and her absences from work related to her condition, were a significant influence on her boss’s decision-making and furnished the reason, or the principal reason, for the termination of her employment. Her dismissal was therefore automatically unfair.
In also upholding her discrimination complaint, the ET found that her dismissal amounted to unfavourable treatment because of her pregnancy. There was no disciplinary process, nor was she afforded any opportunity to respond to the allegations for which she was purportedly dismissed.
Her boss, the ET found, had acted capriciously in terminating her employment in the knowledge that she was suffering from pregnancy-related illness. Having previously got on well with her boss, she had given compelling evidence of the shock and hurt feelings she suffered on the loss of her employment.
In respect of unlawful pregnancy discrimination, the ET awarded her £7,000 for injury to her feelings and £10,873 to reflect her lost earnings. Further sums were awarded in respect of her unfair dismissal and the employer’s failure to provide her with full and accurate written particulars of her employment. An 8 per cent interest rate was applied to her compensatory award, which was further uplifted by 25 per cent to reflect the employer’s complete failure to follow the Acas Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures.