Don’t fall foul of discrimination laws, Leeds lawyer warns

A leading Yorkshire lawyer is urging employers to ensure they do not fall foul of discrimination laws.

Yunus Lunat leads Ison Harrisons employment law department

The call comes after Yunus Lunat successfully acted for a Leeds hotel executive who was unfairly dismissed after being discriminated against due to pregnancy.

Following a four-day hearing at the Leeds Employment Tribunal, the claimant who comes from Leeds, was found to have been unfairly dismissed.

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The claimant - who declined to be named - was also subjected to direct pregnancy and maternity discrimination by her employer, Weetwood Hall Hotel.

Mr Lunat, of the law firm Ison Harrison, said: “The claimant was approaching the end of a period of maternity leave when she made a flexible working request to enable a better work-life balance.

He added: “Prior to her meeting to discuss the request, the claimant discovered she was pregnant again. She informed her employer promptly prior to the meeting. At the meeting, the flexible working request was refused.

“The claimant then decided to return to work full-time and informed her HR (human resources) manager.”

A further meeting was arranged where the claimant was offered a termination package to end her employment, Mr Lunat said.

She was “strongly encouraged” by an external firm instructed to accept the offer, Mr Lunat said.

Mr Lunat added: “The reasons provided by the employer for the termination offer included that the claimant had expressed concerns about childcare availability and costs, which were found to be without foundation, and that the only reason she might be returning to work was to qualify for another period of maternity.

Mr Lunat said: “The claimant refused the offer and tendered her resignation on the basis that the settlement offer was only made as a result of the disclosure that she was pregnant again.”

The tribunal ruled that the claimant’s claim of unfair dismissal was well-founded and succeeds.

The claimant’s complaint of dismissal influenced by pregnancy or the exercising of maternity leave rights also succeeded.

Mr Lunat said: “This case provides a word of caution for employers who believe that they are protected by Section 111A of the Employment Rights Act.

“While in most cases, off the record communications cannot be used as evidence in a claim, this does not apply in circumstances where anything said or done was improper.

“Employers should be extremely cautious before opening termination discussions with pregnant staff.”

A spokesman for Weetwood Hall Hotel told The Yorkshire Post: “Thank you for the opportunity to comment. However we are not going to comment at this time.”

Mr Lunat leads Ison Harrison’s employment law department and has a wide range of experience in all aspects of employment law.

He has advised the Football Association on Race Equality matters since 2004 as a member of the Race Equality Advisory Board.

In 2013, Mr Lunat became the first Muslim in the FA’s history to take a seat on the FA Council.

Mr Lunat has also been appointed by the FA to act as a specialist chairman to its discrimination panel.

Ison Harrison has 13 offices across Yorkshire and provides a full range of legal services for both business and private clients ranging from residential conveyancing, family and probate matters to personal injury and debt recovery.