Female employee undergoing IVF treatment dismissed following giving her employer notice of pregnancy.
BJ Cheese Packaging had employed Gita Karavadra (claimant) from January 2019 as an Admin Assistant, in the February she had informed her Manager that she would be wanting to pursue fertility treatment in the near future. Following this the claimant from May to June had attended a number of appointments at a fertility clinic and booked a month’s annual leave to allow her to rest after her treatment.
On 13th July the claimant found out she was pregnancy and texted her manager for a further 2 weeks annual leave – she did not inform her manager of her pregnancy and he replied to state there was no issue with the extra leave.
The following month the claimant messaged her Manager to say she would return to work but received no response. A number of days later the manager called the claimant and stated that her long holiday had resulted in staff shortages, during this conversation she informed him that she was pregnant. In response he stated that he believed she would need “a lot of time off” and suggested she take a further 2/3 months off. In response she stated she did not want to take any further time off and wanted to return to work, the manager informed her he would call her back. The Tribunal heard that the claimant despite making numerous attempts to contact him did not hear back.
The claimant asked to be allowed back to work but was informed “they would not allow her to return” as this was taken by the tribunal as her effective dismissal – although when she received her P45 it was effective from 13th July 2018. As a result, she brought a claim of pregnancy /maternity discrimination and unfair dismissal to the ET on 1st December.
Following the evidence being presented the ET favoured the claimant and rules she had been unfairly dismissed and the reason for the dismissal was her pregnancy. The ET ordered that the respondent pay the claimant £21,081.14 in loss of earnings and wages, statutory maternity pay and injury to feelings.
What does this mean for your business?
IVF treatment can be difficult to pinpoint in relation to employees’ rights, and it may be more appropriate to consider an employee who is undergoing treatment as if they were already pregnant. Determining the protected period can be uncertain as the employee undergoing IVF will need to wait for a number of weeks prior to confirming the pregnancy. According to ACAS “employers should treat the protected period as starting when the embryo has been transferred”.
This highlights to employers the importance of supporting employees with competent family friendly policy and procedure – Our team of experts can support you with the creation and implementation of this information to avoid such employment tribunals in the future – contact us today on 0844 327 2293 to discuss how we can protect your business.