In a recent decision, an Employment Tribunal ordered a security system supplier to compensate an employee who was sacked after announcing her pregnancy.
What Exactly Happened?
Miss Charlotte Leitch, the claimant, began working for the Essex-based company CIS Services Ltd (the respondent company) on 21st May 2021. She joined as an administrative assistant and received her employment contract from Ms Nicola Calder, Head of Compliance. Upon reading her contract, Miss Leitch had a few issues with the terms which were discussed with Mr Christopher Clark, Director of the company.
However, she was later informed that those terms will not be removed or amended. Ms Calder also emailed her as a reminder to sign the contract so she can “get the ball rolling”. On 24th June 2021, Ms Leitch informed Ms Calder that she is pregnant in a face-to-face informal meeting at her office (Ms Calder was also informed via text message a day prior).
In that meeting with Ms Calder, Ms Leitch informed her of how she had lost her babies previously and was homeless the last time she was pregnant. However, Ms Calder informed her that since she had not signed the contract, there was no obligation to keep her in CIS Services. Ms Calder gave Ms Leitch time to work until the end of the day or the next day. Ms Leitch chose to work till the next day since it was the end of the week.
On the same day, Ms Calder sent Ms Leitch an email expressing her concern about her past experiences and stating that they have mutually agreed to her leaving the next day. While Ms Leitch accepted that it would be the last day, she spoke to ACAS about her rights. Soon after, she sent an email to Ms Calder and Mr Clark essentially clarifying that she never volunteered to leave and instead was given no other choice.
In her email, she further adds that her previous pregnancy-related trauma was taken advantage of and seen as a way to sack her. She then says that she knows she is entitled to a one-week notice period since she has been working for a month. Moreover, she questioned why remote working was not given as an option when she was informed that a remotely working bookkeeper could take over her tasks.
In response, Ms Calder informed her that the decision to terminate her employment was simply because she did not sign and return her contract on time. She added that she gave her options as to when to leave because she did not want her to be in any stress, given her previous miscarriage.
Her role was terminated on 25th June 2021. Unfortunately, due to the trauma of losing her job while pregnant, Ms Leitch lost her baby.
What The Employment Tribunal Said
To begin with, the Employment Tribunal extended their sympathy to Ms Leitch as she faced another miscarriage. Although the tribunal did say that there is no evidence to show it was the discriminatory act by Ms Calder or Mr Clark that triggered her PTSD and anxiety, which led to losing her baby.
However, the Tribunal did find her employers to have acted in a discriminatory manner. They also found that both Ms Calder and Mr Clark were somewhat vague in recollecting what happened as well as in their meeting notes.
The Tribunal also found that in the chain of emails exchanged, there is no proper proof that Ms Leitch voluntarily resigned and it is clear that she chose one of the three dates of termination given to her. Additionally, it was noted that there was no formal meeting to discuss her termination.
Hence, the evidence submitted by Ms Leitch was accepted. The Tribunal said, “Words were spoken under emotional stress and Ms Calder took advantage of the situation”.
The decision of the Employment Tribunal can be found here