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Autistic chef wins unfair dismissal claim after being dismissed while pregnant

Miss ELD has autism, an eating disorder, anxiety and depression and used to work as a chef on national living wage for Huntleys. She did not have a written contract of employment and did not receive payslips.

In the case of Miss E L D v Farmhouse Kitchen Huntleys Limited

In 2022 Miss ELD had a miscarriage and was very distressed. In 2023 she became pregnant again and was very worried about losing the baby. She asked for a risk assessment to be done and one was done early on in her pregnancy but when she asked for a second assessment, specifically in relation to heavy lifting, her boss, Mr M, ignored her requests. She had to lift hot heavy pans, for example of soup, and she called for help, but none was given.

On 29 June 2022 Miss ELD was feeling very unwell. She was bleeding and was not feeling well enough to work as a chef in the kitchen. She messaged Mr M to ask for a few days off. Mr M replied that she could have time off if she could find cover. She approached two colleagues but could not get cover. She went back to Mr M and said she couldn’t get cover but really wasn’t well enough to work. Mr M said “fine” by message meaning she could have a few days off. His short reply was hurtful to Miss ELD because she knew he was not happy about it and was not supportive of her.

On the morning of Friday 30 June 2023 Mr M messaged Miss ELD to ask if she could come in. She said she could not and that he had agreed she could have a few days off. He replied, “I’m going to have to let you go”. She was devastated. She asked for the reason for her dismissal. Mr M replied, “you have left us in the shit again”.

Miss ELD was paid final pay for days she had worked. She said she felt “hounded”. She was in a desperate situation financially, not able to pay her bills, not able to buy food, pregnant and facing eviction. She was referred to a foodbank. Emma was supported to apply for maternity allowance, but her claim could not be processed as she did not have payslips from Huntleys.

The Tribunal found that Miss ELD was automatically unfairly dismissed by the company. The reason for her dismissal was because she had requested time off for pregnancy related reasons. This is not a fair reason for dismissal. Mr M treated Miss ELD unfavourably because of her pregnancy when he (i) refused to do a second Risk Assessment, (ii) required her to carry on lifting hot heavy pans, (iii) refused to pay her for attending ante-natal appointments, (iv) required her to take annual leave for ante-natal appointments and (v) refused to pay maternity pay and told her to take it up with HMRC.

Miss ELD was awarded £666.80, with a further remedy hearing planned to decide the award for unfair dismissal and discrimination and injury to feelings.

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