Under the Equality Act 2010, it is unlawful to discriminate against employees who are pregnant or have recently given birth. But what happens if an employer decides to dismiss an employee, then finds out that she is pregnant before it has a chance to communicate the dismissal? That was the question in a recent Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) case.
Facts of the case
In Really Easy Car Credit Ltd v Thompson, Ms Thompson was employed by Really Easy Car Credit in a telesales role. Having been employed for just over a month, she was still in her probationary period when she found out that she was pregnant. Her employer had already experienced a number of issues with Ms Thompson’s performance and demeanour, culminating with her being sent home after falling out with a customer. The company decided to terminate her employment, but before it had a chance to communicate this to Ms Thompson, she informed her manager that she was pregnant. She was dismissed the following day.
Ms Thompson claimed the company’s decision was related to her pregnancy and brought a claim for unfair dismissal and discrimination in the employment tribunal (ET) case. The ET acknowledged that the company’s decision to dismiss had been made before it was notified of the pregnancy, but still ruled the dismissal was unfair.
The EAT ruling
The EAT overturned the ET’s decision, it clarified that, in claims of pregnancy claims, the employer has to know or believe that the employee is pregnant at the time of the dismissal decision. In this case, the company did not know of the pregnancy when making its decision, so the dismissal was lawful.
Employers will welcome this common sense decision. It is clear that there is no obligation for an employer to reconsider a decision to dismiss made before being told of an employee’s pregnancy. However, employees should inform their employer, in confidence, that they are pregnant at the earliest opportunity for health and safety reasons.