Worker sacked as her miscarriage had ‘inconvenienced’ bosses, tribunal finds

Chantelle Nicholson suffered a miscarriage in October 2018 and following a period of sick leave, she was fired from her job at Willowbank Holdings Limited, a real estate company based in Stanmore, Middlesex

A worker was fired because her miscarriage had “inconvenienced” her bosses, an employment tribunal has found.

Chantelle Nicholson began working as an office administrator for Willowbank Holdings Limited, a real estate company based in Stanmore, Middlesex, in February 2017 and later became a property administrator.

A tribunal heard in 2018 Miss Nicholson had experienced some personal issues and was given a final written warning for absences.

In August 2018, she got pregnant, but during a scan at the end of October, doctors found no heartbeat.

The woman then contacted one of her bosses, Pradnya Naigaonkar, to tell her she had suffered a miscarriage and was told to go on “sick leave for a few weeks”, the panel heard.

Ms Naigaonkar sent Miss Nicholson a text saying: “Sorry to know this. I would recommend you to put down as sick leave for a few weeks til things get better with your health. Please take care of yourself. Good luck.”

She worked for an estate agent based in Middlesex (Stock photo)



The tribunal held in Cambridge was told Miss Nicholson later had to have surgery which meant she was signed off until November 16.

Her bosses were not in contact with her which the tribunal found “fitted” with the fact there had been no discussion of a “fixed timescale” for contact to resume between them.

But on November 9 when she informed them of her being signed off work, Miss Nicholson received a “harsh” email which read: “We are very sorry for the recent health issue and losses at personal level you have experienced.

“I would like to note that you have been absent from work since 29 October 2018 without any notification of your absence.

“Today is the first communication we have received from you with regards to absence [until] 16 November. This is having adverse impact on the business.

“We look forward to you returning to work on 18 November 2018. It makes sense that we have a meeting on 18 November at 10am to discuss your personal situation and its impact on your work.”

The email left Miss Nicholson feeling “distressed” as she felt she was potentially in trouble “in circumstances where she had just lost her unborn baby child”, the panel heard.

During the meeting, Miss Nicholson was upset so she was told to take a few days off and then return to work, the panel heard.

But after returning from annual leave in January 2019, Miss Nicholson told the panel she was sacked “without warning” by her other boss, Haresh Rane.

Although he argued she had “stormed out” and resigned, the panel found he “did not dispute” she had actually been sacked in an email he sent.

Miss Nicholson then made claims for unlawful discrimination, unfair dismissal and subjection to detriment to an employment tribunal.

The panel, headed by Employment Judge Roger Tynan, found it “revealing” that Mr Rane should “equate absence as a result of miscarriage with unpredictable attendance”.

It concluded: “The ‘harsh’ email of 9 November 2018 was not a communication we would expect a fair and reasonable employer to send to an employee who had recently suffered a miscarriage, let alone in circumstances where Ms Naigaonkar had suggested she should take time away from work.

“If, as Willowbank Holdings Limited suggest, they were solely concerned that this was a further uninformed absence, they might have contacted her at any time before she contacted them on 9 November 2018 to enquire as to the reasons for her continued absence.

“Her pregnancy and miscarriage proved a tipping point in the relationship and we conclude that Mr Rane had resolved by no later than 9 November 2018 that Willowbank Holdings Limited should part company with her, albeit he recognised that legally (and perhaps morally) it could not do so immediately and certainly not during her protected period.

“We can identify no other reason for her dismissal other than that Mr Rane had resolved by no later than 9 November 2018 to bring her employment with Willowbank Holdings Limited to an end because her pregnancy and subsequent pregnancy related absence were an inconvenience and that he acted on this when he met with her on 10 January 2019.”

The judge concluded: “We infer from the change in position, including the harsh tone of the email, that Miss Nicholson’s absence, which was as a result of her pregnancy and illness suffered by reason of it, was becoming an inconvenience.”

The case will next be resolved at a remedy hearing where Miss Nicholson is in line to receive compensation.

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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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