A Manchester law firm which sacked a pregnant employee by email a week after hiring her, and after she suffered nausea and vomiting caused by pregnancy, has been ordered to pay over £23,000 by the employment tribunal.

Gowing Law Solicitors conceded that Ms K Wright, a full-time administrator, had been unfairly dismissed and discriminated against contrary to the Equality Act 2010, and that the principal reason for her dismissal was connected with her pregnancy. The firm accepted liability for unfair dismissal in the week before the hearing was due to begin.

At the time in question, Wright was suffering from hyperemesis, a condition which can cause severe nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. Three days after starting her job at the firm, she was absent from work due to hyperemesis. Four days later she was absent for the same reason, experiencing nausea and vomiting from early morning. Later that day she was dismissed by email. The email concluded the reason for her dismissal was because she was unreliable.

The employment tribunal awarded Wright £23,060, including £9,600 for injury to feelings, £6,856 for future loss and £5,740 for loss up until the hearing. However, it rejected Wright’s claim that that the reasons given for her dismissal were inadequate and untrue, finding ‘the reason for dismissal was actually lengthier than those which the members of the tribunal had seen in many circumstances’.

The awards were uplifted by 20% because Gowing Law Solicitors did not follow the ACAS code. 'Looking at the ACAS Code, the respondent did not: inform the employee of a problem; give her the opportunity at a meeting to discuss the problem; or investigate,' the tribunal said. 

It added: ‘The tribunal finds it to be just and equitable to uplift the awards by 20%, particularly noting the absence whatsoever of any fair procedure followed by the respondent prior to dismissal.'