Employers who are ignorant of the legal protections afforded to pregnant women and mothers in the workplace can expect to be penalised. A company that posted a P45 to a worker after learning of her pregnancy found that out to its cost after it was ordered to pay her more than £20,000 in damages (Karavadra v B.J. Cheese Packaging Ltd).

The administrative assistant took a month's unpaid leave, with permission, in order to undergo IVF treatment. After she became pregnant and sought to return to work, her boss informed her that her absence had caused staff shortages and that he had had to cancel his holiday.

On telling him her good news, he said that he had never employed a pregnant woman and that he had no idea how to handle the situation. When she rejected his suggestion that she take two or three more months off, unpaid, he told her that she would not be permitted to return to work immediately. There was no further communication before her P45 was posted to her.

After the woman launched proceedings, an Employment Tribunal rejected as totally unreliable evidence that the company was unaware of her pregnancy prior to her dismissal. Her dismissal by reason of her pregnancy was automatically unfair and discriminatory. Her damages of £21,081 included compensation for her lost earnings and over £10,000 for injury to her feelings.

Please contact Emma-Louise Hewitt or Samantha Glynn on 0808 166 8860 for assistance in dealing with any issues arising as a result of pregnancy or maternity to ensure that you do not act in breach of the law.

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