In the case of Miss M Reeves v The Hannah Corporation Ltd: 3400012/2017 the Employment Tribunal held that an employee had been dismissed because she had notified her employer that she was pregnant (rather than because of a genuine redundancy situation).
The facts in Reeves v The Hannah Corporation Ltd
Ms Reeves commenced employment as a receptionist at The Hannah Corporation Ltd’s (“Hannah Corp”) in its estate agency department on 18 February 2016. In May 2016 the company closed its estate agency business but Ms Reeves received a telephone call from the Human Resources Manager, who informed her that here was a job available in Hannah Corp’s Building and Contents department in its Wellingborough office. She therefore transferred to this role in May 2016.
In June 2016 Mr Young (the departmental manager) informed Ms Reeves that he was happy with her performance in the job.
In July 2016 Ms Reeves discovered that she was pregnant and informed Mr Young and Ms Harrison . On 9 August 2016 she was compelled to attend Kettering General Hospital with a suspected ectopic pregnancy. She took a few hours off work to do this and returned to work after, having been assured that there was nothing astray with her pregnancy.
Ms Reeves returned to work after a couple of days and on 24 August 2016 she was called into a meeting with Mr Young and Ms Harrison. Ms Harrison informed Ms Reeves that there was not enough work available for her and that, as he was in a probationary period in her new role, the business would have to let her go; this was despite Ms Reeves’ three-month probation period actually having concluded in May 2016. A colleague of Ms Reeves’ who was doing the job (a Ms Camp) was kept on. Ms Reeves was asked to leave the office immediately without further explanation.
Later that day Ms Reeves emailed Mr Young to request a letter confirming her dismissal. Ms Harrison subsequently sent her an email confirming that she had been dismissed because the business had not grown as quickly as had been expected and that there wasn’t enough work to accommodate Ms Reeves on a full-time basis.
Ms Reeves subsequently submitted claims to the Employment Tribunal for pregnancy discrimination (section 18 of the Equality Act 2010) and automatic unfair dismissal (section 99 of the Employment Rights Act 1996).
The decision of the Employment Tribunal
The Employment Tribunal upheld Ms Reeves’ claims for pregnancy discrimination and automatic unfair dismissal.
The Tribunal accepted Ms Reeves’ evidence and Hannah Corp failed to file a defence to the claim, meaning that there was no opposition to Ms Reeves’ evidence and legal arguments. The Tribunal therefore held that there had not been a genuine redundancy situation and that the true reason for Ms Reeves’ dismissal had been the notification of her pregnancy to the business (and therefore an act of pregnancy discrimination).
Automatic unfair dismissal
The Employment Tribunal held that the sole or principal reason for Ms Reeves’ dismissal was because she was pregnant, upholding her claim for automatic unfair dismissal.
The Employment Tribunal awarded Ms Reeves £17,811.78 as compensation for her claims, comprised of the following sums:
- Past loss of earnings: £9,274.14
- Future loss of earnings: £2,537.64
- Injury to feelings: £6,000.00
Our solicitors’ view on Reeves v The Hannah Corporation Ltd
Chris Hadrill, a specialist employment solicitor at Redmans, commented on the case: “Employers must treat employees (as well as workers and contractors) fairly, irrespective of any protected characteristic that any employee may have – a failure to treat employees fairly and equally can, as in this case, lead to a substantial award of compensation.”
The judgment of the Employment Tribunal in Reeves v The Hannah Corporation Ltd can be found here.