Pregnant worker sacked after job posted online
An employment tribunal recently heard the story of Sintija Gaikniece, a pregnant worker who was shocked to find her own job advertised online just before she was fired from her position at VPZ, a vape shop in Forfar, Scotland. Gaikniece was dismissed in June of last year after her bosses claimed that customers had complained about her behavior. However, she became suspicious when she received no evidence of these complaints and later discovered that the company had already posted a job advertisement to replace her before officially terminating her employment.
According to the legal proceedings, Gaikniece began working for VPZ in January 2022 and discovered her pregnancy only two weeks into her employment. She stated that her bosses had promised to discuss maternity arrangements but never followed through with the discussions. Gaikniece believed that the company had conspired to terminate her to avoid paying for her maternity leave. As a result, she filed an employment tribunal appeal, which she won, leading to her being awarded £17,500 in compensation. Speaking to the Daily Record newspaper, Gaikniece expressed her belief that the company had planned her dismissal and already had a replacement ready.
Gaikniece recounted her probationary meeting in late June where her boss informed her that there were complaints about her customer attitude but provided no specific details. She was told that she hadn’t passed her probation and was given the option to leave immediately if she wished. Gaikniece accepted the termination, signed on for Universal Credit, and began her legal battle.
In response to the allegations, a spokesperson for VPZ stated that the company, as the UK’s leading vaping retailer employing over 450 individuals nationwide, promotes an inclusive culture to foster the development and success of all employees. They highlighted their commitment to equal opportunities and their comprehensive paternity and maternity policy, which offers benefits and flexibility to staff members. The spokesperson acknowledged the tribunal’s judgment but mentioned that the company would be appealing the decision and, due to ongoing legal proceedings, refrained from further comment on the case.
The case of Sintija Gaikniece sheds light on the challenges faced by expectant mothers in the workplace. Research conducted by Culture Shift indicates that more than a quarter (26%) of expectant mothers hesitate to disclose their pregnancy due to concerns about potential stigma from colleagues and managers. The percentage rises to almost half (46%) for those who have been employed for less than six months when they become pregnant. Pregnancy and maternity discrimination ranked as the fifth most common discrimination claim from 2020 to 2021. The claims mainly revolved around sham redundancies, offensive comments directed at pregnant employees, failure to implement flexible working options, and being overlooked for promotion.
In the United Kingdom, there are legal protections against maternity discrimination, with the primary law being the Protected Period outlined in the Equality Act 2010. This period begins when a woman’s pregnancy commences and ends at the conclusion of her additional maternity leave period or when she returns to work after pregnancy, whichever is earlier. These laws aim to safeguard the rights of pregnant individuals during this critical time in their lives.