Employer Brought to Book for Maternity/Pregnancy Discrimination

Employers who are found to have discriminated on the grounds of pregnancy or maternity will swiftly be brought to book. That was certainly so in the case of a tanning salon worker who learnt that she was being made redundant out of the blue on the very day she returned from hospital with her new baby (MacKin v SFJ Tanning).

The woman, who worked part time, was on maternity leave when she gave birth to her third child. On her discharge from hospital with her baby, she and other salon staff received a letter from liquidators informing them that they had been made redundant. She received no notice that her job was at risk; there was no prior consultation and the letter came as a complete shock to her.

The salon, however, did not close but continued in business under another name. It had subsequently expanded and former colleagues told her that it was business as usual and that they had kept their jobs on the same terms as before. Her attempts to find out what was happening were rebuffed by salon managers, one of whom hung up on her. She received emails from one of the salon's owners that she found intimidating and insulting. She was eventually sent her P45.

At a time when she should have been taking pleasure in her new baby, she found herself without a job and under financial pressure. She suffered anxiety as a result and her GP noted that she felt overwhelmingly sad. She eventually found a new job, but was only able to complete two shifts before the COVID-19 lockdown was imposed. Due to the brevity of her employment, she was not placed on furlough.

The salon made no response after she launched proceedings and her complaints of unfair dismissal and discrimination on grounds of pregnancy and maternity were all successful. Following a hearing, an Employment Tribunal awarded her a total of £8,895 in damages. The award included £4,000 to reflect injury to her feelings and £1,000 for the stress and anxiety she suffered due to her employer's conduct.

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