Pregnant nursery worker sacked after bosses asked if keeping baby was a ‘good idea’

After successfully suing Stepping Stones Nursery in Hoddlesden, Lancashire, Darci Topping has been told she can expect a “significant” settlement following the employment tribunal hearing

Darci Topping fell pregnant with son Stanley in 2020 and told the tribunal she was fired after informing bosses of her happy news

Image: LancsLive)

A boss who asked a pregnant employee if keeping her baby was a “good idea” before sacking her weeks later will be forced to pay significant compensation.

Darci Topping has now won an employment tribunal after challenging the Stepping Stones Nursery, LancashireLive report.

The 23-year-old was fired after telling the line manager Zara Costello she was expecting one week into the job.

The hearing heard how she had then been the subject of “negative inferences” – and was even grilled about the baby’s father, and if she intended to go through with the pregnancy.

But the minimum wage worker was then ‘pressured’ into reducing her hours as the coronavirus pandemic hit before being made redundant in a shock move.

Bosses at Stepping Stones Nursery have been told to prepare to pay ‘significant compensation’

The Manchester tribunal heard how the minimum wage worker was then “pressured” into reducing her hours before being made redundant.

The tribunal ruled that bosses at the nursery, located in Hoddlesden, Lancashire, had “dressed up” her sacking with a sham process because she was having a child.

Darci has since welcomed son Stanley and will be compensated after suing for pregnancy discrimination and unfair dismissal.

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The tribunal report said: “A few days later, in the course of a discussion about her pregnancy, Ms Costello told her that Julie Mercer, the owner of the nursery, would ‘come round to it’, and she mentioned the fact that Miss Topping was on probation.

“Other comments were made, including questions about whether Miss Topping was, in fact, going to keep the baby and whether that would be a good idea, and reference was made to Miss Topping’s partner or father of the baby at the time.”

Stepping Stones Nursery became worried about finances as the reality of Covid hit, with Darci’s hours cut to 20 a week without consultation.

She was forced to sign a “hastily” typed up document agreeing to cutting her hours – but was the only worker to have her shifts formally cut.

Darci was “anxious” over the pandemic’s impact on her health and whether or not she would have a job, the tribunal heard. She was placed on sick leave initially but then placed on furlough as well as other members of staff.

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However, she was the only one to receive 80% of wages for 20 hours a week, rather than 37. And despite things being “stable” at the nursery, she was made redundant out of the blue while on furlough, leaving her “very upset”.

Ms Costello even suggested she “might be better off on benefits” during the telephone call.

The report said: “By April 20, 2020, the numbers of children attending the nursery each day had stabilised. Miss Topping was by then on furlough with other employees at no cost to the nursery.

“What happened then was that Ms Costello simply rang up Miss Topping and announced her dismissal as (redundancy). From the evidence presented, the Tribunal considered that the nursery dressed up her dismissal by constructing a redundancy process which either never took place or took place after the nursery made its decision to dismiss her.”

Darci launched legal action, claiming the nursery “had a problem with pregnant employees”.

Employment Judge Marion Batten said: “The Tribunal concluded that the decision to make her redundant was a decision targeted at her alone – she was pregnant and in light of the paucity of the evidence, it was apparent that was the only difference.

“There was no other credible explanation offered by the nursery. The Tribunal had no hesitation in concluding that her dismissal was related to her pregnancy.

“Only she was dismissed. She was the only employee who was pregnant, and in the context of her treatment by the nursery since she told them, at the beginning of March 2020, that she was pregnant.”

Following the case, Darci said she is glad to have won the tribunal.

She added: “It was very tough for me being made redundant at such a vulnerable point in my life while expecting my first baby which I wanted to be excited about. I do feel that I have got justice and I am relieved that the case is finally over.”

A compensation hearing will take place later this month.

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