Worker sacked without notice after taking time off following miscarriage

Hannah Pawley said she felt “used and betrayed” after being fired from her job as a chef at Hanley’s restaurant in Driffield, Yorkshire, when she took time off to recover from an ectopic pregnancy, which doctors warned her could be fatal if she did not terminate. She had also suffered a miscarriage just two months prior.

The chef was entitled by law to take as much leave as necessary to recover.

But an employment tribunal heard Pawley was "dismissed without notice"  by boss Sean Hanley in November 2019, two weeks after her loss, and added it "was for a reason connected with the pregnancy of the employee."

And according to charity Pregnant Then Screwed, which helped with the chef’s legal case, she was not paid for any sick leave.

Pawley told the BBC: "I asked for my monies owed and a valid reason for firing me. As he couldn't provide one, I felt I had no other option but to bring my case forward and fight.”

Hull Live reported Pawley has successfully sued her former employer for unfair dismissal and was awarded £17,000 in compensation following the tribunal.

The local news outlet said Hanley was unavailable when approached to comment on the incident.

Pregnancy loss policies

HR Grapevine has previously reported how other businesses have been have rolled out policies to support their staff members.

Last month, clothing brand ASOS introduced a raft of HR policies that included paid leave for staff who have experienced a pregnancy loss or are undergoing fertility treatment, as well as flexible options for those going through the menopause.

Also this year, LADbible Group introduced a new initiative called ‘LADfamily’ which comprised of a suite of ‘family-friendly’ policies aimed at supporting its global workforce.

Channel 4 previously unveiled a dedicated Pregnancy Loss Policy. This was designed to support staff through pregnancy loss – which includes, but is not limited to, miscarriage, stillbirth and abortion.

And the cereal giant Kellogg’s has also introduced support for staff experiencing the pregnancy loss and fertility treatment.

The measures announced by the Manchester-headquartered firm include paid leave for fertility treatment and pregnancy loss, including for partners and those using a surrogate mother.

How can these policies help HR?

A wealth of data has pointed towards the number of people that have been impacted by things such as miscarriage, highlighting the need for policies like this in the workplace.

In fact, research published on Tommys.org website found that an estimated one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage.

In a previous interview with HR Grapevine, Jacqui Clinton, Tommy’s Director of Pregnancy & Parenting at Work, said: “Some companies recently introduced policies for leave after pregnancy loss – but as well as needing time for physical and emotional recovery, the person who returns to work may be fundamentally changed and need longer-term support, so an understanding manager and flexible working environment is crucial.”

According to Child Bereavement UK, there are several things an employer can put in place before and after a staff member returns to work. For example, before, the organisation suggested identifying someone to be the employee’s regular point of contact, provide information about bereavement leave, offer flexible working arrangements and ascertain how the bereaved employee would like others in the workplace to be told.

When the employee returns, it advised that employers should encourage the employee to let others know what support they would like, talk to the employee about their workload and understand that they may not be able to work at their full capacity following their loss. In addition, it’s crucial to never assume that the employee is ‘over it’ because they haven’t spoken about it.

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