Dismissing an employee for being pregnant may seem extraordinary in this day and age but it still happens far too often. In a case on point, a shop assistant who was viewed as a malingerer by her employer during her complicated pregnancy was awarded substantial compensation by an Employment Tribunal (ET) (Kusmierek v Spalding Market Ltd).

The woman was on sick leave, having been advised by her GP that she should avoid bending and lifting, when she was taken aback to receive her P45. She launched ET proceedings on the basis that her dismissal was automatically unfair and that she had been subjected to unfavourable treatment because of her pregnancy.

In upholding both complaints, the ET noted her bosses' evidence that they did not believe the GP's certification that she was unfit for work. Instead, they thought that she was using her pregnancy as an excuse to get out of doing her job and that she was lying back and taking the money when she should have been at work.

The ET accepted her husband's evidence that, when he presented a sick note at her workplace, one of her managers delivered an ultimatum that she would be dismissed if she did not return to work forthwith. Her employer had produced no evidence that showed she was a malingerer or taking sick leave on a false premise. It followed that her dismissal was because of her pregnancy.

Turning to the valuation of her claim, the ET found that she had suffered no loss of earnings. It noted that she had belatedly received maternity pay from the employer and that there was abundant suitable work available in the relevant area. She was, however, awarded £10,000 in compensation for injury to her feelings and £525.40 in respect of the employer's failure to provide her with written particulars of her employment.

For advice on pregnancy or maternity at work, please contact Emma-Louise Hewitt e.hewitt@sydneymitchell.co.uk 08081668860.

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