How to avoid pregnancy discrimination claims

Blog Posted: Wednesday 27th April 2022 by

A former employee of a family-run automotive business was awarded £19,974.67 after suffering direct Pregnancy Discrimination and being unfairly dismissed.

Mrs Herring (the claimant) began work at J Lovric & Son and worked 16 hours a week over several shifts. She was late for work on 4 November 2017 and reported it to a manager via text.

In January 2018, Mrs Herring informed her employer that she was pregnant and could swap shifts to attend doctor’s appointments. 

During her first trimester, she was often feeling unwell and in February arrived late to work because of morning sickness and reported it to a manager via text. After this, she received a verbal warning about being late.

In late March 2018, Mrs Herring was hospitalized with health complications and later found out she had lost her baby in April and remained on sickness leave.

The Respondent and Mrs Herring exchanged several messages by letter, text, and email regarding access to medical records and scheduling a case meeting for the Claimant to discuss her return to work and possible reasonable adjustments. After this, Mrs Herring raised a grievance.

The employment tribunal ruled that:

  1. The respondent discriminated against Mrs Herring contrary to Section 18(2) Equality Act 2010 in: issuing a verbal warning for lateness and their failure to carry out a pregnancy risk assessment
  2. The Claimant’s dismissal was automatically unfair, contrary to Section 99 Employment Rights Act 1996 and Regulation 20 Maternity and Parental Leave etc Regulations 1999.
  3. The Claimant’s complaints of direct discrimination on grounds of her sex contrary to Section 13 Equality Act 2010, are not well-founded and are dismissed.

Breakdown of costs

  1. Mrs Herring was awarded £14,000 for the injury to her feelings caused by pregnancy-related discrimination.
  2. 15% of this was added for failure to comply with the ACAS Code of Conduct on Disciplinary Procedures. This is an increase of £2,100.
  3. Interest on the injury to feelings award as adjusted for failure to comply with the ACAS Code of Conduct is to be calculated at 8% per annum from 24 February 2018 onwards, which amounts to a cumulative interest rate of 21.08%. The award of interest over this period is £3,394.67.
  4. The Claimant is awarded four weeks’ pay, being 4 x £120 = £480 for the Respondent’s failure to provide the Claimant with a statement of employment details.

The total sum payable by the Respondent is therefore £14,000 + £2,100 + £3394.67 + £0 + £480 = £19,974.67.

How to avoid pregnancy discrimination claims

Understand the law

It is against the law to discriminate against someone you employ or considering employing because of their pregnancy, an illness caused by their pregnancy (including time taken off) and maternity pay or leave they plan to take. Discrimination includes dismissing them, not offering them a job, changing their pay or other terms in their contract, forcing them to work while on maternity leave and preventing them from returning while they’re breastfeeding.

Handbooks and policies

Having employee handbooks or written policies that refer to in Section 18 of the Equality Act 2010, safeguarding the protected characteristic of pregnancy and motherhood. These will need to be reviewed, updated and followed. There is nothing preventing you from dismissing an employee during pregnancy or maternity as long as the correct policies and procedures have been followed and the dismissal isn’t because of the pregnancy or maternity.

Grievance procedures

Developing and implementing the correct procedures for investigating pregnancy discrimination complaints will help prevent employment tribunal claims. At Human Results, we give advice and support in line with the ACAS Code of Practice. Click here to read more about the ACAS Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures.

Offering support to employees and management

Having open and honest conversations with pregnant employees so reasonable accommodations can be made, as well as informing employees of their rights and responsibilities. It is also important to educate management on your current policies and how you expect them to treat your staff who are pregnant or on maternity.

If you need support drafting discrimination policies or implementing the correct procedures or if you just want some advice on how to avoid unfair dismissal and pregnancy and maternity discrimination claims, get in contact with the Human Results team now.

To read more about this case, click the link below!

Mrs L Herring v J Lovric & Son: 3200293/2019 – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

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