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Significant financial award for employee who was successful with claim of pregnancy/maternity and religious belief discrimination

View profile for Rebecca Billinge
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It has recently been reported in the media that an employment tribunal case has determined that a female worker was successful in bringing a claim for pregnancy/maternity discrimination against her employer.

It is reported that in this particular case, the employee was recruited in early 2017 to work for an estate agency as an area sales manager at one of their offices that was underperforming. The employee was therefore on notice from the outset that they needed results from her in order to avoid closure of the office. The employee was told that she had just three months to bring in the sales that the company required to avoid closure or; she would have to work in one of their other offices or face redundancy. Only a small number of sales were agreed over the summer with none for September and October.

It is understood that the employee then disclosed her pregnancy status to her employer in October 2017 and her manager immediately engaged in a discussion about the employee receiving a pay cut and being subject to possible demotion. It was alleged by the employee that she was thereafter referred to in derogatory terms making reference to her pregnancy in a subsequent meeting.   

Thereafter, (following her honeymoon), the employee alleged that she was invited to attend a meeting to discuss her performance whereby she disclosed that her health had affected her performance during the weeks before she took annual leave. It is understood that she was then asked if she wanted to take a pay cut, (something which had previously been put to her), and was informed that if matters didn’t improve she would be at risk of redundancy in the impending months. It was during this meeting that the employee, was also asked whether her husband had the same religious views as her and whether they celebrated Easter and Christmas. The employee alleged that she was regularly subjected to derogatory comments about her religious belief.

The employee subsequently made a complaint of direct discrimination and harassment on the grounds of her pregnancy status and religious belief.

Under the Equality Act a woman is protected from unlawful discrimination because of a current pregnancy, or less favourable treatment as a result of that pregnancy or her attempts to assert her rights of maternity within the maternity period of 26 weeks following the birth of her child or children. There is no need for the woman to compare herself with a male employee in making such a claim for discrimination.

Further, less favourable treatment experienced as a result of a person’s religious or philosophical beliefs or lack of such beliefs, (for example atheism), is also prohibited under the Equality Act and is considered to constitute discrimination.

Generally, a belief is interpreted as a mind-set which affects an individual’s life choices and the way in which they choose to live their lives day to day.

The law also provides protection against discriminatory conduct as a result of a perception that an individual is of a certain faith or holds particular beliefs, even if the perception is incorrect.

In this case, it is understood that the employee was invited to attend a capability meeting in December, during which she was told that due to their concerns with her performance and generating sales, her employment could be terminated. Thereafter, capability proceedings were instigated with a view to dismissing the employee, however before any hearing could take place the employee was placed on sick leave and thereafter commenced her maternity leave.

It is reported that the employee commenced proceedings against her for employer whilst on maternity leave due to feeling that she could no longer work for them due to their discriminatory treatment towards her, notwithstanding the undue stress and anxiety that their actions had caused her whilst she was pregnant.

It is reported that the employment tribunal who heard the case upheld the employee’s complaint of discrimination on the grounds of her pregnancy/maternity status and religious belief discrimination. It is understood that the employee was awarded monetary compensation totalling £41,065 which included an award for loss of earnings, injury to feelings and interest.

This particular type of case is something which we, as a discrimination law department at Stephensons, have a wealth of experience in dealing with.

If you feel that you have been discriminated against as a result of a protected characteristic, you may be able to bring a claim for discrimination under the terms of the Equality Act 2010. We may be able to help you with this and so please contact our specialist discrimination team for further advice on  01616 966 229

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