A woman working at Britain’s nuclear weapons factory was sacked because she became pregnant, a tribunal has heard.
Jennifer Cox said she lost her job as a result of morning sickness after deciding “honesty was the best policy” and telling her bosses she was expecting a child.
Mrs Cox, 33, had worked for the British MoD police at the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Aldermaston, Berks, as its website manager in charge of updating information on the base’s intranet.
The employment tribunal was told that she was part of an 800-job cull across the Ministry of Defence to cope with the recession. Mrs Cox disputed this, telling the panel, sitting in Reading, that she suffered sexual discrimination.
Within five weeks of the start of her part-time employment she told bosses she was pregnant and began taking time off due to morning sickness and attending antenatal appointments.
She said this delayed progress on the website’s development but could not believe the reaction from Ray Cross, her line manager. “He just told me to stop going off sick,” she said. “I didn’t want to be sick, I couldn’t help it.
“The threatening and intimidating conversation left me leaving work feeling very miserable and low.”
She said this sickness should be seen as a discounted absence because it was pregnancy-related. Mrs Cox, who is claiming her unfair dismissal was due to sexual discrimination, told the tribunal panel that when she informed her superiors of her condition it led to her newly formed job becoming “at risk”.
“I had made the decision to notify
my line manager, thinking that honesty was the best policy, which I now regret,” she said.
Martin Downs, representing the MoD, said Mr Cross was not angry at her for missing work because of her sickness.
“This was not with focus on absence in mind,” said Mr Downs. “All Mr Cross was concerned about was the output on the intranet.”
Mrs Cox was asked by another manager to take her antenatal appointments in non-working hours, the hearing heard.
Mrs Cox’s employment with the MoD ended on July 12, 2010. She had been employed on a six-month short-term casual contract for three days a week.
She said she was led to believe it would become permanent position.
However, that appeared to have changed several months later, the tribunal was told.
Mrs Cox added: “Mr Cross told me that if things didn’t start to develop on the intranet soon he would have no option other than to end my contract and remind me that my contribution to the business was being evaluated while on a casual contract.”
Supt Paul McLaughlin, head of the performance standards department at the MoD’s police and guarding agency, said Mrs Cox’s dismissal was part of the severe cuts made during last year’s recession.
The case was adjourned with a reserved conclusion from Judge Robin Lewis expected in the New Year.