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Understanding Maternity and Pregnancy Discrimination: Lessons from the Nicola Hinds' Case

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Understanding Maternity and Pregnancy Discrimination: Lessons from the Nicola Hinds Case

Nicola Hinds' recent legal victory against her former employer, Mitie, has shone a spotlight on the issue of maternity and pregnancy discrimination in the workplace.

Nicola Hinds successfully pursued a discrimination claim (and constructive dismissal claim) against her former employer, Mitie. 

Ms Hinds was a regional account manager for Mitie and had been described in a 1:1 with her line manager in 2020 as 'extremely dedicated' and as having 'tremendous potential'.

In April 2020, Ms Hinds advised her male manager that she was pregnant. However, neither her manager nor anyone else at the company carried out the mandatory risk assessment, nor did they follow the procedure as set out in their own Maternity Guide.

In October, Ms Hinds was struggling with her workload and emailed her manager with her concerns about her workload and that she was suffering from work-related stress. Ms Hinds' manager did not respond to her email personally and instead commented to a colleague that Ms Hinds was being 'very emotional and tearful' after raising concerns about her workload. 

Following a hearing, an Employment Judge held that she had been discriminated against by the company. Her manager had stereotyped her as an 'emotional, hormonal pregnant woman' and that in the particular circumstances, his description of her as emotional and tearful was dismissive and belittling.

This case highlights some of the issues around direct pregnancy and maternity discrimination.

An employee can claim direct discrimination if they can show that they have been treated less favourably because of a protected characteristic, in this case, pregnancy and maternity. Being able to prove less favourable treatment is not enough; the less favourable treatment must be because of the protected characteristic.

A tribunal will consider the conscious or unconscious reasons behind that decision. Success in a discrimination claim hinges upon showing that the less favourable treatment was because of the protected characteristic. An unfair or poor decision is not sufficient to be construed as direct discrimination; there must be a link between the protected characteristic and the less favourable treatment.

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If you would like advice and guidance on discrimination claims, please contact our Employment Litigation team on 023 8063 9311 or email enquiries@warnergoodman.co.uk. You can also visit our discrimination web page for further help and information.