How Martin Searle Solicitors’ team represented a beauty therapist at the Employment Tribunal, winning her pregnancy discrimination claim.
Alice worked for Haywards Heath Hair as a Senior Stylist. Initially she enjoyed a positive working relationship with the owner, Julia. Julia often took Alice and her colleague out to lunch and gave them free treatments. Alice even babysat Julia’s children outside of work.
In June, Alice discovered that she was pregnant. Julia appeared pleased for her and promised her a pay rise to help with the costs of having a baby.
A few weeks later, Alice began to suffer from nausea. Alice reported sick and was then signed off by her GP. Alice kept Julia updated, but Julia sent Alice a number of text messages saying things like: “Are you sure you can’t come in? I can’t keep cancelling your appointments” and “your absence is really affecting my business – I can’t take any more”.
Julia called Alice to a back to work meeting which became heated and told her that she would need to attend work even if she was still being sick.
Julia changed Alice’s breaks. Instead of allowing Alice to take her usual 1-hour lunchbreak, Julia made Alice take a shorter lunchbreak and then her remaining lunch hour at other times of the day. Julia believed that this would help Alice to manage her symptoms because this is what Julia had found helpful when she was pregnant some years ago. This did not alleviate Alice’s sickness.
Julia told Alice that she was no longer allowed to park on-site, and she failed to award the promised pay rise.
Julia told Alice that if she wanted to attend her midwife appointment, she would need to take the full day off work and would not be paid for any of her time off.
Julia issued Alice with a disciplinary warning for leaving her customer during a treatment without investigating why she had done this.
All of this unfair treatment caused Alice to feel stressed and her GP signed her off with workplace stress.
Julia wrote to Alice to say that she was placing her at risk of redundancy and removed her as an administrator from the Company’s Twitter account. This was a responsibility that Alice had enjoyed for some years.
Despite receiving a letter from Alice’s GP outlining her pregnancy-related sickness, Julia stopped Alice’s sick pay, stating that she did not accept that her sickness was genuine.
We advised Alice that Julia was not allowed to treat her unfavourably because of her pregnancy or due to pregnancy-related sickness.
We helped Alice to raise a formal grievance, complaining about Julia’s unfair treatment. As her grievance was not upheld, Alice no longer had any trust and confidence that Julia would treat her fairly. She believed she could no longer work with Julia and so we helped her resign so that she could bring a claim for constructive dismissal.
We issued a pregnancy discrimination and constructive dismissal claim against Julia and Haywards Heath Hair. We represented Alice through her case, including at the 4-day trial.
Julia defended her claim by making a number of false allegations about Alice. Julia complained that long before becoming pregnant, Alice had regularly been late to work, that she had not been using the client booking system properly, and that she had avoided certain tasks.
At the trial, we cross-examined Julia and her witnesses, highlighting why their version of events were unlikely to be true. We also made comprehensive submissions on the law, which included dealing with a number of technical health and safety defences that Julia had raised.
The Employment Tribunal believed Alice’s evidence and it upheld all of her claims of pregnancy discrimination and constructive dismissal. We persuaded the Tribunal that Julia’s counter-allegations against Alice were untrue and the Tribunal found Julia to be an unreliable witness.
After receiving the judgment, we negotiated a settlement against Julia and Haywards Heath Hair for £44,000. This was the equivalent of 3 years’ net pay, based on the increased rate that Julia had promised to pay Alice.
As we acted for Alice under a Damages-Based Agreement, her costs were fixed at £15,400 inclusive of vat. Thereafter, Alice was left with £28,600 – almost 2 years’ net pay.
Alice commented: “Martin Searle Solicitors and, particularly, Matthew Grant, gave me exceptional advice and guidance from start to finish. I felt that Matthew was “by my side” throughout the whole process. I now feel that justice has been done. I cannot recommend Martin Searle Solicitors highly enough – my heartfelt thanks go to Matthew and the team.”