Employer Says “You’ve Left Us in the Shit Again” to Autistic Chef Who Asked for Time Off Due to Pregnancy-Related Illness
In Miss E L Delpinto v Farmhouse Kitchen Huntleys Limited, the autistic chef succeeded in her unfair dismissal and discrimination claims. This comes after she was sacked for asking for time off work when suffering from a pregnancy-related illness. Below, we explore what happened in the case and the subsequent judgment of the employment tribunal. Then, we discuss the steps employees should take if they feel unwell during their pregnancy.
The Facts in Miss E L Delpinto v Farmhouse Kitchen Huntleys Limited
Miss Delpinto (“The Claimant”) began working for Farmhouse Kitchen Huntleys Limited (“The Respondent”) in December 2019. She was a chef on the national living wage who worked mixed shifts, averaging forty hours a week. The claimant has autism, an eating disorder, anxiety and depression.
In 2022, the autistic chef sadly had a miscarriage, leaving her “very distressed”. Then, in early February 2023, the claimant became pregnant again. Understandably, she was very worried about having a second miscarriage and immediately informed her boss, Martin Yates, about her pregnancy. She requested a risk assessment to be completed, which was conducted soon after.
However, later in her pregnancy, Miss Delpinto requested a second risk assessment relating specifically to heavy lifting. This time, her request was ignored by Mr Yates, and she had to lift heavy pans without any help.
Autistic Chef Told She Won’t Receive Maternity Pay
Throughout the claimant’s pregnancy, she suffered bleeding and was fearful of another miscarriage. As a result, the autistic chef would regularly attend A and E to receive a check-up. On a couple of occasions, she had to leave work for such check-ups, which made her boss unhappy.
Additionally, as Miss Delpinto’s pregnancy progressed, she began to feel very unwell, leading to her asking for time off. Again, Mr Yates wasn’t happy about this and said she could only do so if cover were found.
Due to her employer’s previous reaction, the claimant didn’t feel comfortable requesting further time off for ante-natal appointments. She had roughly six such appointments from February to June. This time, her employer said she would have to use her annual leave to attend them.
Subsequently, the autistic chef researched her maternity pay rights online. She took screenshots and forwarded her findings to her boss, explaining her maternity leave may begin on 24 September. In response, Mr Yates said she wouldn’t be paid for her maternity leave and should take the matter to HMRC.
Employer Sacks Autistic Chef Following Pregnancy-Related Illness
On 29 June, Miss Delpinto informed the respondent she was feeling too unwell to work and requested some time off. She outlined that she was suffering from a pregnancy-related illness and was bleeding. Despite this, Mr Yates responded, saying she could only have time off if she could find cover.
After approaching several colleagues unsuccessfully, the autistic chef replied to the respondent. She explained that no cover was available, but she was too unwell to work. To this, Mr Yates replied, “Fine”, which allowed the claimant time off but upset her as she knew he wasn’t happy.
Then, on 30 June, Mr Yates messaged the claimant and said, “I’m going to have to let you go”. This devastated Miss Delpinto, prompting her to ask for a reason why. Her boss responded by saying, “You have left us in the shit again”.
After being sacked, the claimant struggled financially. Despite being paid a final sum for the days she’d worked, her employer didn’t pay for days when she’d attended ante-natal appointments. Fortunately, friends and family helped her survive, and she was referred to a food bank. Following this, Miss Delpinto made claims of unfair dismissal, maternity discrimination and unlawful deductions from wages to an employment tribunal.
The Employment Tribunal’s Judgment
The employment tribunal began by ruling the autistic chef had been unfairly dismissed. Her correspondence with Mr Yates and the timing of her dismissal made it apparent to them that this occurred due to her pregnancy-related illness.
What’s more, they held Miss Delpinto had been treated unfavourably due to pregnancy-related reasons. They listed the following as examples of such unfavourable treatment:
- Refusing to complete a second risk assessment
- Requiring her to lift heavy pans
- Refusing her pay during ante-natal appointments
- Requiring her to take annual leave for the same
- Refusing to provide maternity pay and asking her to take this matter to HMRC
Finally, the tribunal found that the respondent had unlawfully deducted wages from the claimant. The deduction concerned three days where Miss Delpinto had attended ante-natal appointments.
As a result, the tribunal awarded the autistic chef an initial sum of £666.80, with a remedy hearing to follow. The immediate sum was awarded to help Miss Delpinto with her financial position. The remedy hearing will decide her unfair dismissal and discrimination compensation, which the tribunal believes will likely be “thousands of pounds”.
Dealing with Pregnancy-Related Illnesses in the Workplace
Pregnancy-related illnesses can affect individuals differently. Some may experience morning sickness, whilst others could suffer bleeding, and individuals could be affected at different times during their pregnancy. However, regardless of the symptoms an employee suffers, their rights remain the same as they would with regular illnesses.
If an employee experiences pregnancy-related illness, they must follow their workplace’s regular sickness reporting procedures. Then, the employer must record it separately from regular illnesses to ensure the employee doesn’t face pregnancy discrimination. This includes not allowing such time off to trigger absence reviews.
Furthermore, the employee would be entitled to any regular sick pay entitlement usually offered by their employer. If the employee has no sick pay entitlement, they may be eligible for statutory sick pay. However, should the employee be ill within four weeks of the due date, employers can start maternity leave early.
If you have any questions, have experienced unfair dismissal or pregnancy discrimination and want to claim compensation, contact us now. Redmans Solicitors are employment law specialists who could uncover your eligibility to make a claim. So, get in touch with us today by: