Ploughing on with workplace disciplinary proceedings regardless of an employee’s pregnancy or other personal circumstances is likely to lead to severe financial and reputational consequences. In one case recently reviewed by employment solicitor Vina Madhavji, a woman who found herself embroiled in a face-off with her boss whilst going through a high-risk pregnancy received more than £70,000 in compensation after complaining to an Employment Tribunal (ET).
The woman was a business development manager for a company which traded in clearance stock. There had never been any complaints about her performance, but she and her boss fell out after the latter accused her of concealing a spreadsheet which contained contact details of the company’s suppliers. She insisted that there was no such spreadsheet in existence and that she had her own efficient method of recording suppliers’ details via a business cards index.
After she lodged a grievance, which was not upheld, disciplinary proceedings were instituted against her. She had by then informed her boss that she was pregnant.
Having been through previous traumatic pregnancies, her condition was viewed as high risk. She was entirely excluded from the investigatory process and, fearing for her own health and that of her unborn child, she ultimately resigned.
Ruling that she had been constructively unfairly dismissed, the ET found that the company was relentlessly set on the path of pursuing disciplinary action and had completely closed its mind to resolving the issue between her and her boss amicably. The company was only interested in looking for evidence that supported its case and had no intention of looking at evidence that supported her version of events.
The failure to include her in the investigatory process meant that she never had a fair opportunity to state her case and the ET found that the company’s conduct, taken as a whole, was likely to destroy the employment relationship and breached the implied duty of trust and confidence it owed her as an employee.
Also upholding her pregnancy discrimination claim, the ET found that she was in several respects less favourably treated because of her condition and that her pregnancy materially influenced her constructive dismissal. Although the company was aware that her pregnancy was high risk, her request for a risk assessment had not been complied with.
The ET found that the withholding of her commission payments after it became clear that she was considering lodging an ET complaint amounted to victimisation. There had also been a long-term failure to provide her with written particulars of her employment. She was awarded a total of £73,852 in compensation, including £20,000 for the injury to her feelings arising from the company’s conduct.
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