Pregnant woman makes a stand against pregnancy discrimination in the workplace.

13 January 2020

Helen Larkin

Helen Larkin won £17,303 in an employment tribunal after she was sacked because of her pregnancy.

Ms Larkin was eight-months pregnant when she received her two weeks’ notice of being made redundant from Liz Earle Beauty Company. She had worked for the company for five years. She applied for two other positions within the company, but both were rejected without interview. She claims a new senior employee saw her pregnancy as ‘standing in the way’ of restructuring efforts and her further applications were rejected because she would soon be taking maternity leave. Ms Larkin brought her case to Employment Tribunal, saying she was discriminated against based on her pregnancy – which is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010.

The day before she was scheduled to have a C-section, she was filling out forms for the Employment Tribunal. On Thursday, she was awarded £17,303 from the Tribunal.

The situation created a great deal of stress for Ms Larkin, who was particularly concerned for the wellbeing of her unborn child. She said of the experience, "I was worried about the stress it was putting on my own health and my unborn. Being stressed while pregnant can be dangerous and have long-term health implications for the baby… I feel shocked and angry that they took something which should have been a special time with my new-born baby away from me and I’ll never get that time back."

Pregnancy Discrimination

Ms Larkin has been contacted by hundreds of women who have experienced similar pregnancy discrimination in the workplace, illustrating that this is not an isolated incident. She hopes her case "will raise awareness of the scope and breadth of the problem of pregnancy discrimination and make businesses look at their processes and procedures".

A report from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy estimates that as many as 54,000 women each year may be fired or otherwise lose their role because of pregnancy or motherhood. The study also found that 1 in 5 women received negative comments or harassment related to pregnancy in the workplace.

Unfair and unnecessary pressure on pregnant women

Responding to this incident, Margaret Akers, Campaign Research Officer for SPUC, said, "It is important that women in the workplace do not have their job security threatened because of pregnancy. Pregnancy discrimination is not only illegal but can put pregnant women in an extremely vulnerable position at a time when their focus should be on their wellbeing and that of their unborn child. It is not difficult to imagine a scenario in which such negative workplace attitudes towards pregnancy and motherhood would make a woman feel pressured towards abortion in order to protect her career. We are saddened to hear that Ms Larkin experienced this sort of discrimination in the workplace but hope that her case will make employers consider how to better support their pregnant employees."