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Employment Law Case Update: Pregnancy and Maternity Unfair Dismissal

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Improper and unlawful treatment of your pregnant employees can lead to a variety of claims in the Employment Tribunal.  Our Employment Law team today reviews the case of Mrs A Rodin v Dhillons Management Services Limited 2021 and an employer’s insensitive - and expensive - treatment of an employee on maternity leave.  

Mrs Rodin worked for her employer as a trainer until her dismissal in September 2017. In October 2016, she informed her office manager, Ms Sandu that she was pregnant. She went on maternity leave and was expected to return to work in March 2018. While on maternity leave, she was contacted and informed that her employer company, Dhillons Management Services Limited, was shutting down but that on her return from maternity leave she would be employed by a new company, DMS1, which was owned and operated by the same individuals, including Ms Sandu.

In September 2017, her maternity pay was late and she contacted Dhillons Management Services Limited. The managing director, Mr Dhillon, told her that her last two months’ statutory maternity pay would be sent to her bank account, but that she should go to the job centre for any future money’ as the company was now closed”. The job centre told Mrs Rodin that they could not assist as she was on maternity leave and that it was the company that should pay her. Mrs Rodin again contacted Mr Dhillon who, after promising he would investigate, failed to reply to any more of Mrs Rodins communications. 

On 30 September, Mrs Rodin was dismissed and served with her P45. She was not given a reason for her dismissal and soon became stressed and depressed. This impacted her milk flow which affected her ability to breastfeed her daughter. She saw her GP and a psychiatrist and was prescribed sleeping tablets and anti-depressants. She told the tribunal that this was the worst time in her life as she was not able to enjoy her baby daughter”.

Mrs Rodin subsequently filed a claim for unfair dismissal and discrimination based on pregnancy and maternity.

During the hearing, Ms Sandhu told the Employment Tribunal (ET), Her solicitor gave her false hope. All the medications started after she sought legal advice. It is unfair, why should I pick up the bill? Imagine it was the other way around? I hope you can see.”

The ET upheld Mrs Rodins claims, with Judge Sage stating that the reason for dismissal was due to [Mrs Rodin] taking maternity leave and being absent on that ground”. In reaching this conclusion the ET took into account that Mrs Rodin was told to go to the job centre to receive the rest of her maternity pay, and she was told she would be offered a role in the new company after her maternity leave ended. The ET reasoned that this was to avoid transferring Mrs Rodins maternity rights to the new company. The company also failed to provide any evidence of another reason for Mrs Rodins dismissal.

Mrs Rodins dismissal also amounted to unfavourable treatment which, in the absence of an explanation from the employer, the ET concluded was because of pregnancy and maternity. Her discrimination claim therefore also succeeded.

The ET awarded Mrs Rodin over £40,000 in compensation. Of this amount, £12,500 was for injury to feelings. The ET stated that this award reflected the additional distress caused by Ms Sandhus suggestion that Mrs Rodin had been sold a dream’ by her solicitor and she had attended therapy in order to have back up for a big payday’”.

This case is a clear example of pregnancy and maternity discrimination. Employers are reminded that they cannot dismiss an employee or treat them unfavourably because they are pregnant or take maternity leave, and that these employees are entitled to some enhanced protections from dismissal. Employers unsure of their legal obligations towards employees who are pregnant or have recently given birth should seek advice before risking a costly tribunal claim.  

If you have any questions regarding this article, you can call our Employment team today on 023 8071 7717 or email employment@warnergoodman.co.uk.

This was previously part of our weekly Employment Law Newsletter. If you would like to subscribe, please email us at events@warnergoodman.co.uk or just fill in our subscription form.

ENDS

This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.