Want to talk to an expert employment law solicitor?

You'll receive a callback from a specialist within an hour

In Sommerford v United Hygiene Services Limited – ET/2300023/2017 the Employment Tribunal, whilst rejecting the majority of the Claimant’s claims, upheld a claim that she had been subjected to pregnancy discrimination when her employer failed to make reasonable adjustments to her pregnancy risk assessment.

The facts in Sommerford v United Hygiene Services Limited

Ms Kirsty Sommerford, (the ‘Claimant’) commenced employment with United Hygiene Services Limited (the ‘Respondent’) in 2010.  On 4 April 2016 the Claimant informed her line manger that she was pregnant.  Her line manager instructed her not to tell any work colleagues until she had had the opportunity to tell the Respondent’s Managing Director. It took her over one month to do this.  When he finally was informed the Claimant was relieved as she had been worried about his reaction and found it stressful not being able to tell her work colleagues.

In June 2016 the Claimant and some other employees were relocated to another office.  At the new office the Claimant had sit on a bench with a non-adjustable chair.  The Claimant complained to her line manager about this verbally and in a grievance she raised on 3 August 2016.  She alleged that informing her line manager that the seating was unsuitable amounted to a protected disclosure.

On 23 June the Claimant received a letter about her failure to hit her performance target for the month.  The letter was also sent to a male colleague who had failed to hit his target, but the Claimant alleged that the letter amounted to pregnancy and maternity discrimination, direct sex discrimination and a detriment under s47B of the Employment Rights Act 1996.

On 29 June 2026 the Respondents undertook a 25-week risk assessment of the Claimant.  The assessment was carried out in the Respondent’s boardroom in front of 4 male colleagues.  The Claimant requested that it be carried out elsewhere, but was informed that there was nowhere else to do it.

On 4 July 2016 the Claimant along with all the Respondent’s staff attended a meeting at which employees were advised that targets were being increased as well as sales areas.  The Claimant argued that the increased target and area amount to a provision, criterion or practice which put her at a particular disadvantage as it would have involved significant periods of driving in the course of her employment.

On the 18 July 2016 the Claimant’s line manger wrote to her advising her that she needed to attend a disciplinary in respect of various issues.  In fact, the letter was supposed to be an invitation to an investigation meeting and the issues referred to in the letter were never followed up.

The Claimant also complained about the content and tone of a number of emails from the Respondent’s Group Manager in a grievance letter on 26 July 2016.  That grievance was dealt with by the Claimant’s line manager.  The Claimant went on to allege that her involvement amounted to pregnancy and maternity discrimination and direct sex discrimination, despite agreeing to her involvement at the time.  She also alleged that her grievance amounted to a protected act for the purposes of s27 of the Equality Act 2010, namely that the Respondent had failed to comply with its obligations by subjecting her to discrimination.

The Claimant’s grievance was largely upheld, but she still went on to appeal the decision on 17 August 2016. Unhappy with the outcome of the grievance appeal meeting she wrote to the Respondent advising them that she had no option, but to brings claims in the Employment Tribunal (‘ET’)

Following a period of sickness absence, the Respondent failed to conduct a return to work meeting.  The Claimant alleged this failure amounted to pregnancy and maternity discrimination and direct discrimination.  The Claimant’s last day at the Respondent’s was 19 September 2016.  After that she received some e-mail relating to the handover of her work and her company car.  She alleged that those e-mails amounted to harassment related to sex.

The Claimant brought claims in the Employment Tribunal for direct discrimination on the grounds of sex or maternity, indirect discrimination on grounds of sex, harassment on grounds of sex and victimisation and detriments on the grounds of making protected disclosures against the Respondent.

The decision of the Employment Tribunal

The ET found that the Claimant’s complaints of pregnancy and maternity discrimination were well founded.  The ET held that the failure to tell the Respondent’s Managing Director straight away implied that the news would be unwelcome to him.  The initial instruction to the Claimant to delay informing people about her pregnancy clearly involved less favourable treatment of the Claimant because of her pregnancy.

In relation to the risk assessment, the ET considered that this also involved unfavourable treatment of the Claimant who was pregnant and consequently the complaint of pregnancy and maternity discrimination was well founded.

In respect of the other complaints, the ET found that there was no causal link between the matters complained of by the Claimant either with her sex or with the fact that she was pregnant.  As a result, they concluded that the Claimant’s complaints of unlawful discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy, indirect discrimination, her complaints of harassment, victimisation and suffering a detriment were not well founded and accordingly dismissed.

Our solicitors’ views on the case of Miss Sommerford v United Hygiene Services Limited

Sacha Barrett, a Senior Associate in the employment department at Redmans, made the following comment on the case ‘The Claimant’s credibility was impacted in the eyes of the Employment Tribunal by the number of claims she made without merit.  In this case the Claimant would have been better served focusing on those aspects of the Respondent’s treatment of her that was clearly related to her pregnancy.’

The decision of the Employment Tribunal in Miss Sommerford v United Hygiene Services Limited (ET/2300023/2017) can be found here.

About

Redmans Employment Team deal with employment matters for both employers and employees, including drafting employment contracts and policies, advising employers and employees on compromise agreements, handling day-to-day HR issues, advising on restructures, and handling Employment Tribunal cases for both employers and employees Call 020 3397 3603 to speak to one of the members of our employment team or email us on enquiries@redmans.co.uk. Redmans have offices in Richmond, Chiswick, Hammersmith, Fulham, Kingston, Wimbledon, Ealing, Kings Cross and Marylebone (meetings strictly by appointment only).

Want to talk to an expert employment law solicitor?

You'll receive a callback from a specialist within an hour

Share →

Our awards

Request a callback

Your first name (required)

Your last name (required)

Your email (required)

Your telephone number (required)

Brief details of your enquiry

Contact us

Please feel free to discuss your own position and concerns. Contact your nearest office on:

T: 020 3397 3603
E: enquiries@redmans.co.uk
W: www.redmans.co.uk

Testimonials

4.75 Average

193 Reviews

Mark W

Most professional from start to finish offering very a personal service. Most impressive and quick when dealing with the matters in hand.

Posted 3 weeks ago

Anonymous

Posted 3 weeks ago

submit

I am very glad I came across Redmans Solicitors. Fantastic service!

Posted 4 weeks ago

Anonymous

Fantastic communication, always happy to answer queries, highly recommended.

Posted 4 weeks ago

Wavenie B

They were very straight to the point, friendly and understanding people. I felt they had my best interest. They were easy to get hold of, replies were almost instant. 5/5 for customer service

Posted 4 weeks ago

Christina P

Caroline was fantastic to work with - extremely knowledgeable, supportive, thorough and honest. I definitely recommend Redmans!

Posted 4 weeks ago

Anonymous

Very well done and fast support. Professional and reliable. Highly recommended!

Posted 4 weeks ago

Helene L

They were very knowledgable in the respected area in terms of change in law/regulations that is crucial for the clients who are seeking for legal arvice.

Posted 4 weeks ago

Sara R

Very helpful and wonderful advice

Posted 1 month ago

Marie D

very good service all digitalised

Posted 1 month ago

Philip H

Chris Hadrill handled my case with great accuracy and efficiency. Basically made it feel like a process without hassle. Doesn't try to expand the case just for greater fees. I value his professional advice highly.

Posted 1 month ago

Michael W

Professional, responsive and supportive - excellent service!

Posted 1 month ago

Anonymous

I was really happy with the service provided. I had to chase a couple of time but despite that, my matter was dealt with in a timely manor. I would use again in the future

Posted 1 month ago

Lee M

Superb service and always available

Posted 1 month ago

Jonathan S

I was very grateful for the support I received from Redmans during a very difficult period. Rana Tandon really got under the skin of my issue and understood what was important to me, steering me carefully and sensibly to an outcome I was very happy with. I would recommend Redmans to anyone else without any reservations whatsoever.

Posted 1 month ago

Mohamed A

Super helpful and efficient, trustworthy service

Posted 1 month ago

Anonymous

efficient, responsive and effective

Posted 1 month ago

Andrew B

Very good service

Posted 1 month ago

Anonymous

Excellent service, compassionate and a good outcome

Posted 1 month ago

Anonymous

I had an employment issue which required legal advice. Chris was very supportive and knowledgeable, resulting in an optimum resolution in my favour. Would definitely recommend.

Posted 1 month ago

David M

Very professional and first-rate advice. I would use again. With thanks,

Posted 1 month ago