A FEMALE employee was ‘directly discriminated’ against by Slough Children’s Service Trust (SCST) after returning to work following a miscarriage.

Mrs Suman Sharma – who worked as a family support worker for SCST from April 2017-18 – won her case after the judges at an employment tribunal ruled in her favour and she was awarded compensation for financial losses and injury to feelings.

She was awarded nearly £16,000 overall.

The hearing took place from March 17 to 19, 2020, where the court heard Mrs Sharma was ‘directly discriminated’ by the Trust because her line manager – Mr Makoni – did not allocate any casework to her on her return to work from a pregnancy-related sickness, failed to allow Mrs Sharma a fair opportunity to improve her performance, and failed to provide weekly supervision meetings which led to Mrs Sharma’s dismissal.

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The claimant was on sick leave for two months after she fell severely ill – where it was discovered she had early stages of an ectopic pregnancy – on January 29, 2018, and needed to go to hospital for emergency surgery on February 2.

When she returned to work on April 3, 2018 – with reduced hours due to pain caused by the surgery and miscarriage – Mr Makoni sent an abrupt email asking Mrs Sharma to cover duty all day without asking about her health and wellbeing.

Mrs Sharma said she did not feel comfortable performing the duty role after a long absence and the court heard Mr Makoni’s attitude and behaviour towards the claimant changed when she returned to work, saying he was unsupportive, did not understand her emotional state, and expected her to work as if nothing had happened – despite knowing and acknowledging Suman had a miscarriage and had to undergo surgery.

From April 6, 2018 until she was dismissed, Mrs Sharma was placed as duty family support worker – a role requiring to respond to emergencies, urgent enquiries, and take on urgent tasks – where normally an employee is allocated the role no more than once a week on a rota basis.

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During her time back at work, Mrs Sharma asked why she was not allocated any new casework, to which Mr Makoni said he did not have any casework to assign her – despite her colleagues being assigned tasks and casework.

On April 27, 2018, Mrs Sharma was dismissed with immediate effect after her final probationary review meeting where the head of HR, Ms Jacob – who conducted the interview – said Mrs Sharma ‘failed to meet the required standards of the role’.

The judges found the SCST did not give her  a fair opportunity to improve her performance before her dismissal and her pregnancy played a part in the Trust’s failure to give Mrs Sharma a fair opportunity to improve her performance, and the decision to dismiss her.

The court found it likely that Mr Makoni did not allocate casework to Mrs Sharma because ‘he had formed the view she would be dismissed at her next probationary review’ and that the cases would have to be reallocated.

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They also concluded that they failed the claimant one-to-one supervision meetings during April 2018 where it impacted Mrs Sharma’s ability to improve her performance and demonstrate that she was improving.

Her other allegations of direct discrimination and harassment as well as her complaints of victimisation and automatic unfair dismissal because of protected disclosures were dismissed.