Give Me A Break – Employee Discriminated Against Due To Pregnancy

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Give Me A Break – Employee Discriminated Against Due To Pregnancy

What Happened In The Case?

in mid-July 2022 news emerged of a claimant employed as a hygiene operative who had successfully submitted an employment tribunal claim for pregnancy-related discrimination and victimization.

So What Happened In The Case?

Readers need to examine events before the Claimant discovered she was pregnant on 8th October 2019. Before this, she had enjoyed a solid working relationship with her employer and had been absent for less than three days. Procedurally the employer operated a self-certification document system.

Things Stayed The Same…Right?

Unsurprisingly, the employee’s sickness record changed dramatically after the announcement. From 22nd October 2019 to 30th November 2019 the claimant was off work for four days due to pregnancy-related reasons such as migraines and morning-sickness. The employee reported these symptoms to her employer, the internal procedures were followed and her manager recorded the absences and symptoms. However, inexplicably her line manager did not communicate on the form that the symptoms were pregnancy-related.

Meeting

The Claimant was invited to a meeting labelled ‘a development meeting’ with her line manager and an independent colleague. However, during proceedings, the claimant was warned that she had fourteen days to improve or be dismissed. Evidentially, the claimant’s employer claimed that colleagues and those visiting had raised indicated concerns about low cleaning standards within the organization.

Things Come To A Head?

Shortly before the claimant was due to complete her shift on 26th November 2019, two senior colleagues approached her alleging that the Claimant had failed to carry out reasonable instructions by vacuuming a room. The claimant described the behavior of her two colleagues as intimidating. However, the claimant advised them that due to her pregnancy-related condition she described the tasks as ‘physically demanding’ and felt that it was unreasonable for her to do them. The claimant then preceded to submit a grievance about this incident and when the matter was discussed in a later meeting the Employment Tribunal found that the claimant did not have an opportunity to give her perspective on what happened in this incident. On New Years’ Eve 2019 the Claimant was advised by her attendance must improve because pregnancy is not an illness, and would not prevent the Employer from dismissing her.

Give Me A Break

On New Year’s Day 2020 the Claimant attended work, had a pregnancy-related dizzy-spell and needed a short break. Around two-and-a-half-hours later the Claimant was refused another short break and the Claimant alleged that her line manager had described her as ‘pathetic’.

What Did The Employment Tribunal Say?

The Employment Tribunal held that the Claimant’s employer had discriminated against her based on maternity and found evidence that the employer had formed the misguided perception that the Claimant was using the fact she was pregnant as an excuse for not contributing to the team and this view had shaped their behaviour. In a damning indictment of the Respondent’s conduct, the panel also found that the Employer had shut his mind to the time the Claimant spent away from the workplace was pregnancy related.

Lessons Learned?

In-house lawyers should be advising their employer clients to:

  • adopt a culture of empathy within their businesses
  • make allowances for colleagues with protected characteristics such as pregnancy, disability, and other issues which may arise from time to time and
  • draught to adopt and enforce policies and procedures for dealing with bullying in the workplace.

Paul Seath from Bates Wells Solicitors advises clients that if they take such action it will reduce the risk of time and costs being spent on such cases. It will also mitigate the risk of the brand suffering damage.

The Legists Content Team

ASSESSING FIRMS

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THE ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN USING THE FOLLOWING SOURCES

[1] Ms A Burns v Tralee Ltd [2022] Case Number 2301134/2020 - EMPLOYMENT TRIBUNALS (publishing.service.gov.uk)

[2] Urquhart, Jasmine – Pregnant cleaner called ‘pathetic’ for taking rest break was discriminated against tribunal finds – People Management – 14 July 2022 - Pregnant cleaner called ‘pathetic’ for taking rest break was discriminated against, tribunal finds (peoplemanagement.co.uk)

[3] Section 18 Equality Act 2010

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