A pregnant worker who missed an antenatal check-up after her boss said she was “letting the team down” has been awarded £4,000.
Sali Jallow, 32, brought complaints of pregnancy discrimination, detriment on the ground that she made a flexible working request (“flexible working detriment”) and unauthorised deductions from wages against her employer QBE Management Services. She later withdrew the wages element of her claim, which was dismissed on withdrawal.
Ms Jallow’s flexible working request was also dismissed by the court. However, part of the pregnancy discrimination claim succeeded.
The claimant had worked for QBE since 2015 as an IT financial analyst. She had her first child in 2017 and returned to work in January 2018 from maternity leave. She received a satisfactory ‘meeting expectations’ performance rating that year, but soon she began to have health problems.
In October 2018 Ms Jallow had a miscarriage and was diagnosed with depression, stress and anxiety by her GP and prescribed anti-depressants. She did not report this to her managers or HR at the time.
There had also been changes in Ms Jallow’s workload through 2018 which, coupled with her health issues, had seen her achieve a lower professional rating at the year’s end.
The claimant did not argue that she had suffered any financial loss but sought compensation for injury to feelings.
Many of the case’s more significant events occurred on 21 March 2019, when Ms Jallow claimant telephoned Mr Flack from hospital to report that her antenatal appointment was running an hour late. She told the tribunal that Mr Flack said she had taken too many sick days and antenatal appointments, and this was affecting her output, and that she was letting the team down.
Ms Jallow told the court that because of this she rushed back home to work and missed her appointment. Mr Flack was unable to recall this telephone call. In his evidence to the tribunal, he said that the claimant’s sickness absence was not an issue at this stage and he could not recall ever telling the claimant that her sickness was affecting her work.
He added that this did not sound like something he would say, although he was unable to categorically deny it. In relation to antenatal appointments, he said that the claimant had only had two antenatal appointments at this point so that this too was not an issue for him.
Ms Jallow said Mr Flack made similar comments to her in a meeting on 25 March. He denied this.
However, Judge Khan rejected Mr Flack’s evidence. The judge said: “We find that he complained about the amount of time that the claimant was taking on sickness absences and on antenatal appointments.
“We find that [the claimant] missed her appointment because she felt compelled to do so.”
“We find that Mr Flack’s comments on 21 and 25 March 2019 upset the claimant. He was criticising the claimant for her output and the impact on her team and he linked this to her absences from work which included her antenatal appointments and pregnancy-related sick leave.
“We have found that Mr Flack’s comments on 21 March 2019 not only upset the claimant but compelled her to miss an antenatal appointment at an early and potentially critical stage of her pregnancy. We also take account that the claimant was at this time suffering with withdrawal symptoms from the cessation of antidepressant medication and she had been referred to a counsellor by her GP.
“We do not find that Mr Flack comments caused these issues but it is likely that they exacerbated them.”
The reserved judgment awarded £4,000 for injury to feelings to Ms Jallow.