GP surgery manager who won £294,000 after she was sacked for falling pregnant and was called a ‘mother hen’ is awarded another £20,000 to cover cost of her missed bonus
A GP practice manager who won £294,000 in a discrimination claim after they sacked her for falling pregnant has got an extra £20,000 over a missed bonus.
Distraught Naomi Hefford stumbled on the partners secretly hatching a plan to axe her and discussing what ‘excuse’ they could get away with – three days after she told them she was going to have a baby.
An employment tribunal heard the GPs then launched a bogus misconduct investigation into her and fired her by email when she was in hospital shortly before she gave birth to her daughter.
Mrs Hefford successfully sued the doctors for pregnancy discrimination and was awarded £294,000 in compensation earlier this year.
She has now won an extra £20,000 after arguing to the panel that she was entitled to a greater payout to take into account a higher weekly pay and the bonus payment that she would have received had she not been fired.
A hearing in East London was told that the practice manager began work at Queensway Surgery, Southend, Essex, in November 2017 following an interview with partners Dr Michael Jack, Dr Ajith Sivaprasad, Dr Jamil Sorouji, Dr Olanike Aderonmu and Dr Sajid Azeem.
Naomi Hefford, manager at a GPs, sued employers for pregnancy discrimination and won
During the application process Mrs Hefford said she was asked whether she had children or was planning to have them. Although Dr Jack denied this, the tribunal concluded that he had childbearing ‘in his mind’.
A year later she informed them that she was pregnant and that she had been deemed ‘high risk’.
Three days later the practice manager was left in tears when she overheard Dr Sivaprasad, Dr Azeem and Dr Aderonmu declaring they needed to ‘focus on sacking her’ and calling her a ‘mother hen’.
The tribunal judgements states: ‘Her recollection was that the words were these: ‘We need to focus now. We need to focus on sacking her and then steadying the ship because that’s going to take up an awful lot of time’.
‘(Sy) also explained that she had heard the female voice saying that ‘If we are going to do this what will be our excuse?’.
‘It was that point (sy) says she became very upset and ran away because she was scared that the people in the room were going to hear her.
Mrs Hefford stumbled on Queensway Surgery partners secretly hatching a plan to axe her
‘She added that after the comment made by the female voice (Dr Aderonmu) she also heard the phrase ‘mother hen’ and it was after these words that she left the vicinity.’
Mrs Hefford – who had a habit of using her phone to record meetings so she could accurately write up minutes – later realised the conversation had been accidentally taped.
The hearing was told that by January 2019 the GPs had decided to sack her and launched an investigation into her conduct, claiming she had been rude in her ‘abrasive’ emails to staff, undermined colleagues and that feedback had ‘no effect’ op haar.
They then abruptly invited her to a ‘heavy-handed’ meeting without notice.
Mrs Hefford later complained of pregnancy discrimination to HR advisors, who ruled against her, and she was dismissed for gross misconduct in June – while she was in hospital.
Tribunal judges concluded that the misconduct allegations were exaggerated and that the real reason she had been sacked by the doctors was because she was pregnant.
The panel’s judgement continued: ‘The principal reason for (haar) dismissal was her pregnancy. We have found that the concerns about the (haar) conduct were trivial up to the date on which she announced her pregnancy.
‘Thereafter, a meeting took place which discussed her potential dismissal. The process from then on which ultimately led to her dismissal was connected to her pregnancy.
‘This was the catalyst that started the chain of events.’
Mrs Hefford won her claims against the doctors of unfair dismissal, pregnancy discrimination, victimisation and breach of contract.
The tribunal originally awarded her £294,372.72 in compensation but this has now been increased to £313,672.36.