Pregnant nursery worker wins £25,000 after boss asked if keeping baby was ‘good idea’


Darci Topping’s bosses at her new job at Stepping Stones Nursery in Lancashire quizzed her about the baby’s father and asked her if keeping the baby was a ‘good idea’

Darci Topping with one-year-old son Stanley, she won the money after challenging Stepping Stones Nursery at an employment tribunal

A nursery worker who told her bosses she was pregnant a week after starting her new job has won £25,000 after she was asked if keeping the baby was a ‘good idea’.

Darci Topping, a qualified nursery nurse, started working at Stepping Stones Nursery in the Lancashire village of Hoddlesden in February 2020. A week later she told her line manager she was pregnant.

The 23 year old – who was on minimum wage – was then subjected to ‘negative inferences’ about her pregnancy by her managers, was quizzed about the baby’s father and about her intention to go through with the birth.

She was also ‘pressured’ into reducing her hours as the Covid-19 pandemic hit and then made redundant out of the blue, the employment tribunal heard.

But bosses at Stepping Stones Nursery had ‘dressed up’ her sacking with a sham process because she was pregnant, the tribunal ruled.







Darci told Stepping Stones Nursery she was pregnant a week after starting her new job
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Image:

Google)

Miss Topping, who now has one-year-old son Stanley, has been awarded £25,646 after she successfully sued the nursery at an employment tribunal for pregnancy discrimination and unfair dismissal.

The tribunal in Manchester was told qualified nursery nurse started at the nursery near Blackburn on February 24 in 2020 on a 37-hour-a-week contract.

A week later, on March 2, Miss Topping, from Blackburn, announced to her line manager Zara Costello that she was pregnant with her first child.

A court report said: “A few days later, in the course of a discussion about her pregnancy, Ms Costello told her that Julie Mercer, the owner of the nursery, would ‘come round to it’, and she mentioned the fact that Miss Topping was on probation.

“Other comments were made, including questions about whether Miss Topping was, in fact, going to keep the baby and whether that would be a good idea, and reference was made to Miss Topping’s partner or father of the baby at the time.”

As the Covid-19 pandemic hit days later and Stepping Stones Nursery became worried about finances, Miss Topping was told her hours needed to be cut to 20 a week and wasn’t given any consultation.

She was forced to sign a ‘hastily’ typed up document agreeing to cut her hours – but was the only worker to have her shifts formally cut.

Miss Topping was ‘anxious’ over the pandemic’s impact on her health and whether or not she would have a job, the court heard.

She was placed on sick leave initially but then placed on furlough as well as other members of staff.

However, she was the only one to receive 80 per cent of wages for 20 hours a week, rather than 37.

Despite things being ‘stable’ at the nursery, she was made redundant out of the blue while on furlough, leaving her ‘very upset’.

Ms Costello even suggested she ‘might be better off on benefits’ during the telephone call.

The report said: “By April 20, 2020, the numbers of children attending the nursery each day had stabilized.

“Miss Topping was by then on furlough with other employees at no cost to the nursery.

“What happened then was that Ms Costello simply rang up Miss Topping and announced her dismissal as (redundancy).

“From the evidence presented, the Tribunal considered that the nursery dressed up her dismissal by constructing a redundancy process which either never took place or took place after the nursery made its decision to dismiss her.”

Miss Topping launched legal action, claiming the nursery ‘had a problem with pregnant employees’.

Employment Judge Marion Batten said: “The Tribunal concluded that the decision to make her redundant was a decision targeted at her alone – she was pregnant and in light of the paucity of the evidence, it was apparent that it was the only difference.

“There was no other credible explanation offered by the nursery.

“The court had no hesitation in concluding that her dismissal was related to her pregnancy.

“Only she was dismissed. She was the only employee who was pregnant, and in the context of her treatment by the nursery since she told them, at the beginning of March 2020, that she was pregnant.”

Following the case, Miss Stanley said she is ‘glad to have won the court’.

She added: “It was very tough for me being made redundant at such a vulnerable point in my life while expecting my first baby which I wanted to be excited about.

“I do feel that I have got justice and I am relieved that the case is finally over.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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