Pregnant worker wins unfair dismissal case
A worker who was unfairly dismissed after her employer discovered she was pregnant has won her case for unfair dismissal. The spa employee, Agata Plewa, was employed by Homefield Grange Retreat spa, who fired her without warning less than two weeks after she announced her pregnancy. The spa company’s reason for dismissal was that they could not afford to keep Plewa on, yet the company had taken on a new employee around the time she was made redundant.
The founder of charity Pregnant Then Screwed, Joeli Brearley, has highlighted how a pattern of unfair, discriminatory dismissal cases have been seen throughout the country. She said:
“Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case. Research from the Equality and Human Rights Commission finds that 54,000 women a year lose their jobs for getting pregnant. That’s one in nine. The law is very clear – it is illegal to push someone out of their job because they are pregnant or because they have taken maternity leave. However, employers believe they can get away with this abhorrent behaviour, in part due to our failing tribunal system which means that only 1% of women who experience this type of discrimination even raise a tribunal claim. Many more are silenced from speaking about what happened to them by NDAs."
Plewa’s case comes just months after a pregnant woman was dismissed by her employer for being off work due to morning sickness.
Rachel Richardson, a quantity surveyor, took nine days off from work as a result of feeling unwell. She missed meetings because of scans and told her manager that she had a child on the way. Richardson was fired for ‘not meeting her objectives’. The judge ruled the company failed to show that her dismissal was not due to her pregnancy, and her employer was ordered to pay £185,000 in compensation for injury to feelings and discrimination damages.
Under the Equality Act, pregnancy is a protected characteristic that employers do not have the right to discriminate against. Age, gender reassignment, being married or in a civil partnership, disability, race, religion and sex are all protected characteristics under the Equality Act.
Plewa was awarded £14,257 in compensation in response to her unlawful dismissal.
Julie Morris, an employment partner at Keystone law, said:
“If other women in this situation are dismissed and they think it is because of the pregnancy or maternity leave, the best advice is to pursue it and try and uncover evidence which disproves the employer’s reason for dismissal. For example, if the employer says the role is redundant, look for evidence that they are advertising for roles for the same or a similar position, and ask questions about what will happen to their duties, and why other people have not been made redundant instead. If the role has been covered during maternity leave, ask detailed questions about what is happening to that person’s employment and whether they are being kept on."