Made redundant after announcing pregnancy: ask the expert

I am 16 weeks pregnant and told my boss about the pregnancy about a month ago. The company has seen a reduction in clients and two weeks ago I received a letter announcing that my job (Office Manager) is considered for redundancy and the main reason being I do not have a client facing role. I wrote back saying that this has always been the case and asking who is going to do my job and I was told that other team members.  Also I have been told that I am the only one considered for redundancy and this is purely a cost-cutting measure. I feel that this is related to my pregnancy as tasks have been taken away from me and furthermore a temp has been hired and is doing some of them. Also team members are also asking other people to do some of my tasks (arranging travel, hotels, deal with expenses) and even though they say that this is a cost-cutting measure the spending has continued and furthermore they have applied for a Green Card visa for one team member and paid for the application. They only answered my questions at the end of the consultation, leaving me with no option of asking for more details. I would appreciate if you could advise if I can sue for unfair dismissal. I have been with the company just under two years and the notice period finished exactly before the completion of my two years.

From the information you provided it appears that you would have a strong case for both unfair dismissal and unlawful discrimination.

Your employer should have fully explained the selection process including how your role in particular was identified for redundancy while other ‘non-customer facing’ positions have been unaffected. They should have given adequate consideration to fixing a pool for selection from which redundancies were to be made and then developed fair and objective selection criteria before deciding who to make redundant from that pool.

It appears you may have strong arguments that these duties were not complied with. It also seems that your employers have failed to engage in reasonable and meaningful consultation.

The law states that the time from the beginning of a pregnancy until the end of maternity leave is a ‘protected period’ meaning that women cannot be unfairly treated in the workplace. This protection extends to providing pregnant employees with enhanced rights in redundancy situations.

If an employee is dismissed where the only (or principal) reason for her dismissal or selection is related to pregnancy, birth or maternity leave, the dismissal will automatically be seen as unfair. Similarly, identifying a woman for redundancy where the only (or principle) reason is her seeking to take maternity leave will also be seen as automatically unfair and be deemed as unlawful discrimination.

Whilst you have enough service to bring an ‘ordinary’ unfair dismissal claim in any event which requires either two years service for all employees employed on or after 6 April 2012 and one year for all employees before this date, automatic unfair dismissal claims have no service requirement.

Given that you were told about the redundancy situation affecting your employment very shortly after you confirmed your pregnancy, an Employment Tribunal would very closely scrutinise the reasons and rationale for your redundancy to see if there was a genuine redundancy situation and that your pregnancy played no part in the decision making process. I believe your employers would have difficulty in persuading a Tribunal that your pregnancy played no part in their decision to make you redundant. I would recommend seeking professional legal advice before taking your next step to discuss your situation in greater detail.

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