Pregnancy related dismissal was unlawful

Thursday 27 September 2018

Catrin Lewis was instructed directly by the union by Marion Scovell to represent Niki Savvides.

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Prospect member, Niki Savvides, wins her case of unfair dismissal and pregnancy discrimination against the British Museum.

Niki was employed on a one year fixed term contract working on a scheme to train and develop archaeologists in Iraq. The project was due to run for five years and she had expected that her role would continue with the project.

Towards the end of her contract Niki informed her managers she was pregnant. Initially there were discussions about maternity cover. However, the museum decided to change the emphasis of the role. Niki contended the job was so similar that she should have been offered it, but the museum refused to do this and said she could apply when it was advertised externally. Niki did apply but was unable to attend the interview because she was off sick with pregnancy complications and was told her application had been withdrawn.

Prospect presented a claim for automatic unfair dismissal and discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy and maternity.

At the tribunal hearing Niki was represented by Catrin Lewis of Garden Court Chambers. Alan Leighton, Prospect national secretary, appeared as a witness.

The tribunal found the change to the role meant there was a genuine redundancy situation, but as Niki was well suited to the role she should have been offered the job, so the dismissal was unfair. The tribunal also held it was discrimination for the museum to withdraw her application for the job when she told them she couldn't attend the interview because of her pregnancy.

Marion Scovell, head of Prospect legal, said: "The law provides special protection for women on maternity leave facing a redundancy situation. In this case the tribunal recognised that Niki should have been offered any suitable available vacancy and the museum's failure to do this made the dismissal

Niki said: "Going through this whole experience was very upsetting and there were many times I wanted to withdraw my case but I'm happy that I persisted and finally won. I am very grateful to Prospect, I wouldn't have made it through without all their help and support."

This article was originally published in the September 2018 edition of ‘News from Prospect Legal’.

The case was also covered by 'People Management': 'The perils of dimissing a pregnant employee (by Homa Wilson, partner at Hodge, Jones & Allen)

Catrin Lewis is a member of the Garden Court Chambers Employment law, discrimination and professional regulation team.

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