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“A new life” – a new job?

This case involved an office manager who was in a new role for just over three weeks when she informed her employer that she was pregnant. She subsequently resigned and brought claims including pregnancy discrimination and harassment after a meeting with her line manager.

Walker v Arco Environmental Centre

Ms Walker worked at Arco Environmental from 03 November 2017 until 13 December 2017 as an office manager. After three weeks with the firm she informed them that she was pregnant. After this she was subjected to treatment which she described as intimidating and degrading.

She said that after telling her employer about her pregnancy, she showed a Director’s wife, Adele Rees, a photo of her pregnancy scan. She claimed that she asked her if she had been trying to get pregnant, to which Ms Walker said she had been before she took the job but then stopped trying. It was stated in the Tribunal that Ms Rees replied with words to the effect of “oh well, shit happens, it’s a new life.”

At a meeting on the same afternoon, Ms Walker’s line manager asked her if she knew she was pregnant when she took the job. Later that evening Ms Walker sent her line manager a text message stating that she was upset after the meeting, and that she “wouldn’t take a job for maternity pay when already guaranteed it without travelling two hours a day.”

 The Tribunal found in Ms Walker’s favour in relation to her claims for unfavourable treatment because of her pregnancy and harassment because of her sex. The Tribunal also found she was entitled to an award for failure to supply written particulars of her employment, after it determined that her job title, description and duties were unclear.

COMMENT

Employers should take note of this case, as it highlights that the purpose of the Equality Act 2010 is to provide protection for pregnant employees. Prospective employees are not obliged to inform their future employers that they are pregnant or trying for a family and employers should avoid asking questions about a prospective employee’s future plans during the recruitment process. The remedy has yet to be decided in this case, however damages are likely to be substantial.

If you would like any advice in relation to recruitment or discrimination or have any other employment law or HR queries, please contact our employment team on 01228 552600 or 01524 548494.

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