Firm’s post-dismissal conduct worsened pregnant paralegal’s stress

Pregnancy: Paralegal struggled to get her SMP

The way a law firm dealt with a pregnant paralegal after it unfairly dismissed her exacerbated the stress she suffered, an employment tribunal has ruled.

The delay in Swift Lawyers in Bolton paying Farzana Yasin her statutory maternity pay (SMP) caused her huge anxiety, said Judge Dunlop in Manchester.

We reported yesterday that Ms Yasin was awarded nearly £19,000 for unfair dismissal, most of which was for injury to feelings.

The tribunal found that, although her role was genuinely redundant, the process was not properly handled and the firm would probably have offered her work in the conveyancing department had she not been pregnant.

The full remedy ruling has now been published and the tribunal said that, because of her pregnancy, Ms Yasin was “particularly vulnerable at the time of the discrimination”.

It accepted her evidence that the dismissal “deeply affected her, having a major and sustained impact on her wellbeing”.

Judge Dunlop continued that the firm’s failings in how it handled the termination of her employment and the aftermath also caused “a huge amount of stress and anxiety”.

He explained: “Some of this was attributable to her concerns around having her appeal heard in a timely way by an appropriate person, but by far the most significant matter was the respondent’s delay in arranging her pay her SMP and to communicate with Ms Yasin about this.

“Many of her communications were ignored, whilst others were passed backwards and forwards within the business.

“Ms Yasin was in a financially precarious situation, and all the was taking place around the time she was giving birth, it is clear it was a huge source of frustration and anxiety.”

Without the post-dismissal conduct, the tribunal would have ordered Swift Lawyers to pay £13,000 for injury to feelings.

“This reflects the fact that this was a one-off act of discrimination which was not egregious or overt, but which nonetheless had serious consequences for the claimant’s wellbeing.”

Ms Yasin had not alleged that the issues around payment of SMP were an act of discrimination, meaning it did not form any part of what she was to be compensated for.

But the tribunal added £2,000 to the damages for this anyway, considering it an aggravating factor. The failure to properly manage the SMP payments arose directly out of the discriminatory termination, it reasoned.

“We are satisfied on her evidence that the upset caused by her discriminatory dismissal was genuinely and substantially aggravated by the respondent’s failures in respect of this related matter.”

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