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Employment Law: Dismissal of pregnant employee

Do you have to reconsider a decision to dismiss an employee if you later find out she is pregnant? Ms Thompson was employed by Really Easy Car Credit, to do online telesales. She had worked there for a short time before discovering she was pregnant. During that time her performance was described as “average at best” and her employer raised various conduct issues with her. Ms Thompson took a day off sick. Unknown to her employer she went to hospital for a scan to find out whether she had miscarried.

On Ms Thompson’s return to work an incident occurred between her and a customer which led to her being spoken to by her manager. She became very upset during this meeting. Her employer decided to dismiss her on 3 August 2016 as they were tired of her “emotional volatility” and thought that her conduct and performance were not good enough. A letter was drafted that day, but it was not posted out as they decided to invite her in for a meeting. Ms Thompson was still within her probationary period.

Meanwhile Ms Thompson spoke to her manager on 4 August and told him that she was pregnant. On 5 August Ms Thompson returned to work. She was handed the prepared dismissal letter and explained the reasons for her dismissal, emphasising that it was nothing to do with her pregnancy.

Ms Thompson brought claims for unfair dismissal and pregnancy discrimination. She argued that the reason given for her dismissal was false. She said that the real reason was that she was pregnant, which her employer had found out the day before she was dismissed. The Tribunal found that the decision to dismiss was made before her employer knew of her pregnancy. The Employment Appeal Tribunal decided that there was no obligation on her employer to reverse the decision to dismiss once it discovered her pregnancy.

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