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Nursery worker who told bosses she was pregnant week after starting asked if keeping baby was a ‘good idea’

Darci Topping, 23, successfully sued the Stepping Stones Nursery in Hoddlesden, Lancashire for pregnancy discrimination and unfair dismissal

Furvah Shah
Wednesday 02 February 2022 16:13 GMT
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Darci Topping, 23, was pregnant with her son Stanley when she was made redundant during lockdown
Darci Topping, 23, was pregnant with her son Stanley when she was made redundant during lockdown (Solent News & Photo Agency)

A nursery worker who was asked if keeping her baby was a ‘good idea’ after telling bosses she was pregnant has won a discrimination claim in court.

Darci Topping, 23, was quizzed about her baby’s father, whether she would go through with the pregnancy then made redundant during the pandemic by managers at a Lancashire nursery, an employment tribunal heard.

Ms Topping, who is now a mother to a one-year-old boy called Stanley, is set to receive compensation after successfully suing the Stepping Stones Nursery in Hoddlesden for pregnancy discrimination and unfair dismissal.

The hearing in Manchester heard that Ms Topping – who is a qualified nursery nurse – was ‘pressured’ into reducing her contracted hours as the pandemic hit then unexpectedly made redundant.

She began her role at the nursery on 24 February 2020 on a 37-hour-contract paid in minimum wage. One week after her starting her role, Ms Topping told her line manager, Zara Costello, that she was pregnant.

A 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 Ms Topping was, in fact, going to keep the baby and whether that would be a good idea, and reference was made to Ms Topping's partner or father of the baby at the time.”

As the coronavirus pandemic hit and lockdown ensured, Ms Topping was told her hours needed to be cut without consultation then signed a ‘hastily’ written document to agree.

Ms Topping was the only staff member at the nursery to have her hours formally cut, causing her anxiety about her health and job status, the tribunal heard.

She was placed on sick leave then furlough, along with other members of staff. But, Ms Topping was the only staff member to be receive 80 per cent of her wages for 20 hours a week, rather than 37.

While on furlough, Ms Topping was made redundant and in a phone call, her line manager Ms Costello suggested she ‘might be better off on benefits’.

The tribunal report said: “By 20 April 2020, the numbers of children attending the nursery each day had stabilised.

“Ms 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 Ms 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.”

Ms Topping launched legal action against the nursery, claiming they ‘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.”

On the case’s conclusion, Ms Topping said she was ‘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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