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UK mum sues ex-employer over pregnancy discrimination

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A UK mum is set to receive compensation from her former employer after suing them for pregnancy discrimination and unfair dismissal.

A mum who told her bosses she was pregnant a week after starting her job at a nursery was asked whether keeping the baby was a “good idea”.

Managers quizzed Darci Topping, 23, about her baby’s dad and her intention to go through with the birth, while subjecting her to “negative inferences” about her pregnancy, an employment tribunal heard.

The new starter – who was on minimum wage – was then “pressured” into reducing her hours as the Covid pandemic hit, before being made redundant out of the blue.

But bosses at Stepping Stones Nursery in Hoddlesden, Lancashire, had “dressed up” her sacking with a sham process because she was pregnant, the tribunal ruled.

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Ms Topping, who now has one-year-old son Stanley, is set to receive compensation from the nursery after successfully suing it for pregnancy discrimination and unfair dismissal.

“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,” she said.

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

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

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

A tribunal 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 Ms 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 Covid hit days later and Stepping Stones Nursery became worried about finances, Ms 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 cutting her hours – but was the only worker to have her shifts formally cut.

Ms Topping was “anxious” over the pandemic’s impact on her health and whether or not she would have a job, the tribunal 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: “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.”

Ms Topping launched legal action, claiming the nursery “had a problem with pregnant employees”.

Employment Judge Marion Batten said: “The Tribunal 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.”

A compensation hearing will take place later this month.

This article originally appeared in The Sun and was reproduced with permission



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