Pregnancy discrimination – still rife

It never ceases to amaze me how people continue to discriminate so brazenly against those with a protected characteristic. In this particular case a law firm dismissed an employee for being off for two days (which were pregnancy-related) saying that she was unreliable! She had only worked for them for one week, but they have lost a tribunal case and been ordered to pay her over £23k.

The case which went to Manchester employment tribunal found that Ms Wright, an administrator for the company, Coupland Cavendish (trading as Gowing Law Solicitors), suffered from pregnancy-related hyperemesis, causing nausea and vomiting.

She had been absent on two days in March 2019 and then on the afternoon of the second episode she was dismissed by email. There clearly could not have been time for them to conduct a review of the case or establish how they might accommodate her condition.

The firm eventually admitted the discrimination conceded that the principal reason for Ms Wright’s dismissal had been connected with her pregnancy and accepted she had been unfairly dismissed and discriminated against. The judge awarded the £23k in respect of loss of earnings, injury to feelings, loss of future earnings and interest.

Most people commenting on this case have wondered how a firm of solicitors could have got this so wrong and made such an expensive mistake. But it is all too easy to forget that solicitors specialise in particular areas of the law. It seems that this firm could not have had anyone with expertise in employment law – the Gowing Law Solicitors website indicates that it specialises in personal injury and accident claims.

So the lesson here (apart from not discriminating against your staff illegally) is to ensure that when you engage professional advisors to deal with employment or business matters, you do not, for example, ask someone who only specialises in wills and probate or house conveyancing. If you need advice on suitable firms of solicitors to deal with your particular situation, please get in touch and we will be able to provide contact details of appropriate employment law teams to consider.
Posted on 10 May 2020
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