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

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

    Testimonials

    4.80 Average

    369 Reviews

    Fidel A

    Redmans Solicitors recently helped me navigate a recent employment termination settlement agreement. Chris Hadrill is very professional and you will be in good hands with him. I score Redmans 4 out of 5 because things had to move fast and felt the team member assigned to my case wasn't very responsive at times. Having said that, I was very happy with the outcome and have no hesitation in recommending their services.

    Posted 7 hours ago

    Nigel A

    Chris Hadrill is hugely impressive - the right blend of assured calm and savvy professionalism. I've already recommended him to friends and family.

    Posted 21 hours ago

    Matt O

    I was hugely impressed with the ease of being able to work with Redmans Solicitors and their professional approach. Mel was really clear around the process, and costings required and I felt comfortable throughout. I would certainly recommend.

    Posted 22 hours ago

    Bryan G

    Great response, and also happy to assist

    Posted 22 hours ago

    David L

    I was made a settlement offer by my employer to terminate my emplyment early. Redmans helped me understand the offer, and ensured that it was fair for someone in my position. They made a very stressful situation much easier. Excellent service.

    Posted 1 day ago

    Anonymous

    I can highly recommend Redmans. The service was professional and prompt and I would not hesitate to use them again. Thanks

    Posted 6 days ago

    Anonymous

    Overall I am satisfied with the performance from Redmans. The reason I have given 4 stars is that I had quite a lot difficulty in contacting the representative which was initially nominated for me. However, when I contacted Chris instead, he was excellent over the phone and secured a great outcome in short order. I would recommend Redmans Solicitors.

    Posted 1 week ago

    Anonymous

    Chris and Redmans were a great help. Effective and efficient, quick response from my first enquiry and then straightforward and attentive throughout with ultimately a positive outcome. I will use them again and recommend them.

    Posted 1 week ago

    Marie P

    Great service, quick responses, good advice and all in a no nonsense, no jargon manner. Would definitely recommend.

    Posted 1 week ago

    Anonymous

    Rana was amazingly thorough and professional!

    Posted 1 week ago

    Anonymous

    I am extremely happy with the legal advice I was provided with. My case was resolved to the best of my expectations. Thank you very much for your professional help.

    Posted 1 week ago

    Shahzad R

    Chris and his team were excellent. They provided sound advice and consultation that resulted in more cash than was offered. Would definitely recommend.

    Posted 1 week ago

    Sanjay B

    I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mel Chin, for all her support during my settlement process. Where she provided a professional service and was understanding. I would confidently recommend Redmans Solicitors to my friends and family. Thank you and wishing you all a Merry Christmas.

    Posted 4 weeks ago

    Paul O

    Excellent response time and communication during my dealings with Redmans

    Posted 1 month ago

    Gil T

    I don’t normally write reviews, but thought it was time on this occasion. Just wanted to say that I highly recommend Redmans - especially Rana Tandon, who helped me navigate around my employment contract. Rana was meticulous and thorough and all over my needs. Would I use Redmans again ? ..absolutely

    Posted 1 month ago

    Stephanie D

    Very thorough and professional service. I was very nervous about my employment case, as I had never dealt with anything like it before. However, the solicitors who handled my case made sure I understood everything. I was never kept in the dark and Redmans kept me constantly informed about what was going on with my case. I would definitely recommend Redmans Solicitors

    Posted 1 month ago

    Richard S

    Chris and Sacha were great throughout the entire process. Chris was very helpful once the initial discussions with my company began and before we agreed there was a case. Sacha was very responsive, patient and helpful throughout ensuring I felt I had the right information to make the best decision on next steps. A close friend and wife have both used Redmans in the past few years for unfair dismissals and the service continues to be first-class and I would strongly recommend them again. They definitely help reduce the anxiety that comes with uncertainty around new processes and situations. Thank you!

    Posted 1 month ago

    Jianya

    Very nice and patient went through the whole document with me.

    Posted 1 month ago

    Susan L

    Very helpful and led me through the redundancy process.

    Posted 1 month ago

    Jennice

    I was very impressed with the service that I received, and the speed in which it was handled. I would recommend them to a family member

    Posted 1 month ago

    Anonymous

    Good service, but they could have been quicker in their responses to me. I also felt they could have made it clear at one crucial point that what I was proposing - and what I ultimately ended up doing - was counterproductive. (Had they made the rules around TOIL payments clear to me, this wouldn't have happened). Also, the amount I ended up paying was considerably higher than their original estimate. Still, satisfied with the service I received.

    Posted 1 month ago