The bad news that can follow the good news of a pregnancy announcement at work
For an expectant mum the thought of a new arrival can be a joyous time but unfortunately the response of an employer can sometimes dampen any celebration.
Frankie was warmly congratulated when she announced to her colleagues at the PR firm where she worked that she was pregnant – but management appeared to take a different view.
Frankie, who had worked for the business for five years, was asked by her male manager what her long-term plans were, and if she planned to have any more children.
Shocked by the question, Frankie said her plan was to return to work after maternity leave. She added that her focus was on the current pregnancy and she had no idea what the future may hold.
Frankie said her manager responded by saying she should aim to get back to work as soon as possible and not let a baby ruin her career like it had for plenty of other women.
She said he added that she would be getting paid a lot of money to sit at home changing nappies when there is a queue of people who would jump at the chance to do her job.
Stunned and upset by the comments, Frankie put on a brave face and left the office. She was extremely upset and tearful when she got home and phoned in sick the following day.
Pregnancy-related health concerns then resulted in Frankie needing to take three weeks off.
Just days before Frankie was due to return to work she received a letter that said she was required to attend a performance management meeting.
During the meeting Frankie was told that she had been underperforming on a number of accounts. She accepted some of the criticism and acknowledged she had not been at her best during her pregnancy.
Frankie says her manager suggested it may be best if she left and focused on her pregnancy for the good of her own health and that of the baby. Frankie was horrified by the suggestion and insisted she wanted to continue working.
The manager then handed Frankie a letter, which was an invite to a disciplinary hearing the following morning. The allegation simply said it was for underperformance, provided no specific details and warned dismissal was a potential outcome.
Frankie was distraught and she felt extremely unwell. She informed her employer the following day that she was unable to attend the hearing.
Later the same day a one-page letter from her employer was hand delivered to her home. It informed Frankie that the disciplinary hearing went ahead in her absence because ‘she refused to attend’ and a decision had been taken to dismiss her.
The letter informed Frankie that she had the right to appeal, which she did and it initiated the disciplinary appeal process.
Frankie spoke to a former colleague who was dismissed by the company shortly after returning from maternity leave. The ex-workmate won her case at an employment tribunal.
She advised Frankie that she should raise a formal grievance for pregnancy discrimination.
Frankie submitted the grievance and the company responded and said it was part of the appeal and will be dealt with as such.
Disappointed with the response Frankie sought further advice from her former colleague. She advised Frankie to contact the Castle Associates Employee Support Centre for help.
Our representative discussed the case with Frankie and he was appalled by the way in which she had been treated.
At the disciplinary appeal hearing our representative insisted Frankie had a legitimate grievance, which should have been heard separately. He presented her case and asserted and explained that she had suffered discrimination and been unfairly dismissed.
The company unfairly rejected the appeal, ACAS Early Conciliation was unsuccessful and the matter proceeded to an employment tribunal.
The work done by our representative during the appeal hearing was key in Frankie winning her case. She was awarded substantial damages, which was a welcome financial boost just after her daughter’s first birthday.
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For employment law advice or if you are affected or want information and support by any of the issues in this article please give us a call. 0333 772 0611