The Claimant started working in the World Up nightclub in November 2021. Less than a month later she began working in a tapas restaurant owned by the same company as an assistant manager. The Claimant did not receive a contract and was not clear on the identity of her employer. The Tribunal decided that WBI Ltd, the company that operated both venues, was the employer.
The Claimant notified her employer in January 2022 that she was pregnant by informing the restaurant manager. She stated that her expected date of childbirth was in September and she intended to begin her maternity leave in August. In the month after she informed her employer of her pregnancy she worked most of the shifts she usually worked despite experiencing pregnancy related sickness.
In March 2022 the Claimant became aware of the fact that she was not receiving the same level of work as she did previously. In April the Claimant was not on the rota even though she told her employer she wanted shifts.
The Claimant engaged with HR in order to discuss her maternity leave plans in May. She was informed that she had been “p45’d”. The Claimant asked the restaurant manager to explain this situation. She stated that if absence was an issue she could have arranged for a doctor’s note. His response to this was simply to say, “no hard feelings”.
The Claimant was not formally dismissed. She did not receive any further communication from her employer on the birth of her child despite her attempts to reach out.
The Claimant brought her case to the Employment Tribunal alleging that her employer had discriminated against her based on her pregnancy and that since she had been dismissed due to her pregnancy, she had been automatically unfairly dismissed. A claim for unfair dismissal will only be considered if the employee has had more than two years’ service. This is not the case for automatic unfair dismissal and there is no qualifying length of service. The tribunal agreed with the Claimant stating she had been treated unfavourably and her claims were successful.
The lesson for employers is that when employees are ready and able to work any refusal to offer them shifts could potentially be discrimination if based on a protected characteristic. Employers must be mindful of their responsibilities to employees who are pregnant.
If you have any questions on any of the issues raised in the above article, please contact Natalia Milne.