In the case of Miss A Thompson v Really Easy Car Credit Ltd: 2501154/2016 the Employment Tribunal held that a pregnant employee was dismissed by her employer because of her pregnancy, awarding her over £8,500 in compensation.
The facts in Thompson v Really Easy Car Credit Ltd
Ms Thompson commenced employment with Really Easy Car Credit Ltd (“RECC”) on 20 June 2016 as a telesales operator; RECC is a small family owned business which sells second hand cars.
On 15 July 2016 Mr Mate, a director of RECC, sent Ms Thompson an email confirming that he was happy with her work and that he thought she was doing a “great job”. She took cigarette breaks and was told that they were too frequent, so she reduced the number of breaks.
Ms Thompson discovered that she was pregnant in the week commencing 25 July 2016. On Saturday 30 July 2016 she began to experiences pains, and these pains continued in to Sunday and Monday. On Tuesday 2 August 2016 she sent a text to Mr Mate confirming that she was suffering from pains and asking to take a days’ holiday as she was attending hospital. Mr Mate replied that this wasn’t a problem and not to worry about work. Mr Crawford, who is one of the owners, took the view, however, that this was the last straw, that she should have gone to hospital earlier, and that she should not have waited until she was due back at work. He wanted to terminate Ms Thompson’s employment there and then but was talked out of it by the other owners.
On 3 August 2016 Ms Thompson turned up for work. There was an incident when Ms Thompson spoke to a customer – she was emotional from her hospital visit and she became upset after Mr Fullerton (whose duties included human resources) spoke to her. Ms Thompson went home after this. That afternoon, the business’ owners/directors had a further conversation about Ms Thompson and decided that she should be dismissed due to her “emotional volatility”, her poor performance, and her poor conduct. A letter was drafted by Mr Fullerton that day confirming that she would be dismissed, but was not posted right away (as he felt that it should be given by hand to Ms Thompson when she returned to work).
On 4 August 2016 Mr Fullerton called Ms Thompson to say that she would return to work the next day. She informed Mr Fullerton that she was pregnant in this telephone conversation. Mr Fullerton then reported this information to Mr Mate, who told him to speak to their lawyers.
On 5 August 2016 Ms Thompson returned to work. Upon attending work she was approached by Mr Fullerton, who handed her the prepared letter. This letter stated that her employment was being terminated with immediate effect because of her performance (during her probation period). Mr Fullerton confirmed this verbally.
The decision of the Employment Tribunal in Thompson v Really Easy Car Credit Ltd
The Employment Tribunal held that the reason for Ms Thompson’s dismissal was her emotional volatility and her failure to fit in with the company’s worth ethic, with the final straw being Ms Thompson’s emotional outburst on 3 August 2016. The Tribunal held that it must have been obvious to the company that her attendance at hospital and emotional state were pregnancy-related, but nonetheless they went forward and dismissed her. The Tribunal therefore held that there were sufficient facts to reverse the burden of proof, and that the company had failed to show that Ms Thompson’s dismissal was in no way related to her pregnancy. The Tribunal therefore upheld Ms Thompson’s claim under section 18 Equality Act 2010 and held that her dismissal was an act of discrimination – it held, however, that if the company had sent her the letter on 3 August 2016 (and not delayed until 5 August 2016) then it would have not upheld her claims.
The Employment Tribunal awarded Ms Thompson the sum of £8,592.55 in compensation, comprised of £2,500 for injury to feelings and £6,092.55 in respect of loss of earnings.
Our solicitors’ view on Thompson v Really Easy Car Credit Ltd
Chris Hadrill, a specialist employment solicitor at Redmans, commented on the case: “Employers must ensure that the dismissal of employees (and, in particular, pregnant employees) are undertaken in a fairly and impartial manner after a thorough investigation into any allegations has been undertaken, otherwise they risk potential claims for discrimination and unfair dismissal being brought.”
N.B. The Employment Appeal Tribunal has now upheld an appeal by Really Easy Car Credit in this case (judgment here). The decision of the EAT in this case will be analysed in due course