By Michael Nadin - Associate Solicitor The government has confirmed that it intends to bring…
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A former nursery manager Simone Cousins from Northampton has won an Employment Tribunal claim against her former employer The Nannery Limited.
The successful claims were for discrimination, harassment and victimisation on the grounds of pregnancy, unfair dismissal and unreasonable refusal to allow time off for antenatal care.
Ms Cousins announced that she was pregnant on 4th September 2017, prior which she was described by her employer as “a meticulous person with her paperwork, entirely trustworthy and honest, and one of the best.”
But after announcing her pregnancy, problems started almost immediately, with the employer refusing to allow Ms Cousins time off for antenatal appointments. Despite having 60 members of staff, the employer made no effort to cover Ms Cousin’s shifts to allow her to attend her appointments.
This treatment resulted in Ms Cousins being signed off sick with stress from 23rd October 2017.
Despite being pregnant and suffering from stress, the employer then subjected Ms Cousins to an oppressive disciplinary procedure which the Tribunal found to be on “trumped up” charges of falsifying working hours (amongst other things).
Despite Ms Cousins setting out a thorough and plausible defence of the allegations against her and raising a grievance alleging she was a victim of discrimination, the employer dismissed her on 15th January 2018.
Ms Cousins issued claims against both her employer and its owner.
The Tribunal hearing lasted for 7 days and the Tribunal concluded that Ms Cousins’ unfavourable treatment and dismissal were because of her pregnancy.
The Tribunal found the employer and its owner jointly liable to pay Ms Cousins £21,326.36 as compensation for injury to feelings, and ordered the business to pay £18,208.72 for loss of earnings.
This case highlights the legal protections enjoyed by pregnant employees and highlights the risks businesses face if they try to avoid complying with their obligations to pregnant employers.
It is also a lesson to employers that the courts take a very dim view of businesses that make sham allegations to justify dismissing an employee. In this case the heavy handed approach adopted by the employer resulted in aggravated damages being awarded and means that the total compensation awarded for Ms Cousin’s hurt feelings was even higher than the compensation she was awarded for loss of earnings.
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Michael Nadin, Associate Solicitor DFA Law