Following a string of successful cases in the employment tribunal, our employment specialist, Yunus Lunat, celebrates another victory in a case for Pregnancy Discrimination.
Following a four day hearing at which the Claimant was represented by Yunus Lunat, she was found to have been constructively unfairly dismissed and also subjected to direct pregnancy and maternity discrimination by her employer, the Weetwood Hall Hotel.
The Claimant was coming to the end of a period of maternity leave when she made a flexible working request so she could have a better work-life balance. Prior to her meeting to discuss her request, she discovered she was pregnant again. She informed her employer promptly prior to the meeting. At the meeting, her flexible working request was refused. The Claimant decided to return to work full-time and told her HR manager.
A further meeting was arranged whereupon she was offered a termination package to exit the business. She was strongly encouraged by an external firm instructed to accept the offer. At the same time she was informed that complaints had been raised against her and that the financial health of the hotel might force redundancies in the future, as further incentives for her to accept the offer.
Reasons provided for the termination offer were the fact that she had expressed concerns about childcare availability and costs, which were found to be without foundation, and that the only reason she might be returning to work was to qualify for another period of maternity. The hotel therefore felt they were being kind to the Claimant and doing her a favour by offering a sum of money.
The Claimant refused the offer and tendered her resignation. She felt that the settlement offer was only made as a result of her disclosure that she was pregnant again. The tribunal agreed, and she was successful in her claims. The Tribunal had no hesitation in concluding that the principal reason for making the termination offer was because of pregnancy and maternity rights, which also meant that the dismissal was also automatically unfair. For the purposes of the Equality Act the making of the termination offer was materially influenced by pregnancy and maternity.
This case provides a word of caution for employers who believe that they are protected by Section 111A of the Employment Rights Act. Whilst in most cases, off the record communications cannot be used as evidence in a claim, this does not apply in circumstances where anything said or done in was improper. Discrimination and undue influence are included in the categories of improper behaviour.
Employers should be extremely cautious before opening termination discussions with pregnant staff. If you find yourself in such a situation and would like advice, call our employment specialists on 0113 284 5000 or email email@example.com