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Pregnancy related dismissal costs firm £185,000

View profile for Kate Johnson
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In the case of Miss R Richardson -v- James Fisher Nuclear Limited, an Employment Tribunal awarded a Claimant the gross sum of £185,000 to compensate her for being dismissed shortly after announcing her pregnancy. 

Miss Richardson was employed by James Fisher Nuclear Limited in the role of Senior Quantity Surveyor. She informed her line manager of her pregnancy on 7th March 2019. Miss Richardson suffered with severe morning sickness which resulted in a pregnancy related absence. She was also unable to attend a client meeting due to this clashing with a pregnancy related hospital appointment. 

On 29th April 2019, Miss Richardson was dismissed with immediate effect. The reason for dismissal offered by the Respondent was that the working relationship simply “hasn’t worked out” and that she had allegedly failed to meet objectives during her 6-month probationary period.   

Miss Richardson issued claims for automatic unfair dismissal and pregnancy related discrimination at the Employment Tribunal and the final hearing took place in February 2021.

To succeed with the automatic unfair dismissal claim, Miss Richardson needed to show that the reason or principal reason for her dismissal was her pregnancy. If she could satisfy this, then it would be for the Respondent to show that the dismissal was not connected to her pregnancy in any way. If they were unable to do this, the Tribunal would conclude that Respondent discriminated against Miss Richardson because of her pregnancy. 

To assist the Tribunal in determining these issues, they apply a two-stage test. Firstly, it must assess whether, on a balance of probabilities, in the absence of an adequate explanation from the Respondent, that the company committed an act of unlawful discrimination. It is not enough for the Claimant to show merely that she has been treated unfavourably; there must be something more. 

The second stage falls to the Respondent to show, on the balance of probabilities, that it did not commit the alleged act. The Respondent must be able to put forward cogent evidence that the treatment was in no sense whatsoever because of the protected characteristic.

The Employment Tribunal found that the decision to dismiss Miss Richardson was during her pregnancy-related absence and followed Miss Richardson recently disclosing her pregnancy and having recently failed to attend a meeting with a client due to a pregnancy-related medical appointment. 

The Tribunal decided that in the absence of any other explanation, the Respondent had discriminated against Miss Richardson because of pregnancy by treating her unfavourably by dismissing her. The Tribunal identified that the timing of the decision to dismiss Miss Richardson; the absence of contemporaneous evidence about the basis upon which the decision was reached; and the reliance of the Respondent on reasons for dismissal, were not the genuine reasons for her dismissal.

Miss Richardson had to wait over a year for the remedy hearing which was heard on 4th April 2022. It was worth the wait as she was awarded the gross sum of £185,000, which was made up as follows:

1. £30,000 as injury to feelings in accordance with the Vento guidelines; 
2. £10,000 as general damages for personal injury; 
3. £3,000 as special damages; 
4. £141,200 as damages for discrimination relating to loss of earnings; and 
5. £800 as payment for the accrued but untaken annual leave to which the claimant was entitled.

If you have been treated unfavourably because of your pregnancy, whether that be because you have not been considered for promotion or even dismissed, then contact us for a FREE 30-minute confidential consultation to discuss your rights and options on 01827 317 070 or email kjohnson@pickerings-solicitors.com.