A conveyancing solicitor made redundant four weeks after telling her boss she was pregnant has been awarded £26,475 by an employment tribunal.

The Newcastle tribunal heard that the practitioner, named as M Dobson, had been offered a role as director with north east firm Michael Cook Law and was in salary negotiations when she informed Cook in February 2023 that she was nine weeks pregnant.

Cook responded to this news by saying that he would ‘just have to leave it’ and told the tribunal this comment was indicating it was the wrong time to talk about work matters.

But four weeks later, the firm dismissed Dobson with immediate effect, with no warning or prior discussions and providing no means to appeal.

Before the tribunal, the firm said the trigger for the redundancy was connected with financial difficulties and insufficient work coming in.

Dobson said that she felt ‘totally blind sided’ by the decision and she struggled mentally. She was too upset to think about alternative work for two months, her appetite was non-existent and she was worried about her baby.

The tribunal recorded: ‘The claimant felt that she did not have a reason to get up in the mornings and the period after her dismissal was one of the darkest times in her life. The claimant felt overwhelmed by the litigation and without her support network would not have been able to make a statement for the hearing.’

Employment Judge Arullendran found that Cook had immediately responded to news of Dobson’s pregnancy by saying he would have to ‘leave it’. This amounted to the firm changing its mind about her joining as a second director, which was unfavourable treatment as both sides had been actively negotiating the position until that point.

The judge added: ‘We find that, due to the proximity in time between the disclosure of the pregnancy and the respondents’ change of mind, they were materially influenced by the claimant’s pregnancy and we find that the withdrawal of the offer of promotion was because of the claimant’s pregnancy.’

The tribunal found that Dobson was dismissed without any consultation or warning about the firm’s financial situation. The firm did not consider anyone else as at risk of redundancy and made no assessment of the rest of the workforce before sacking Dobson.

The judge added: ‘The respondents knew about the claimant’s pregnancy and had decided not to promote her to the position of director because of her pregnancy and this demonstrated that the respondents were consciously, or unconsciously, motivated by the claimant pregnancy in their decision-making process.’


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