A pregnant University academic who was advised on how to seek child benefit and cheap baby clothes during a dismissal meeting has won a partial victory in an employment tribunal.

It was concluded that a 'wholesale failure' led to the dismissal of Caroline Law, in which her termination had been pre-determined by the University of Cumbria and insufficient attempts to find alternative employment had been made.

This is despite her being a 'highly regarded and valued' member of staff before she became pregnant, with a 'flexible skill set' and the ability to adapt, the tribunal heard.

It was found Mrs Law was made redundant because her fixed-term position at the University had ended - rather than directly due to her pregnancy.

However, at least four male colleagues had been found alternative working arrangements in similar scenarios.

Although none of them had directly comparable positions, the tribunal determined that this fact demonstrates that the University could, and did, strive to retain people even against the difficult financial backdrop of Covid.

The tribunal was told a series of meetings where 'weird and inappropriate' comments were made by Mrs Law's superiors.

A failure to help her find a new position led to a case of discrimination being upheld.

She has successfully sued the university at a tribunal for pregnancy discrimination and unfair dismissal.

A hearing to determine Mrs Law's compensation will take place in due course.

The tribunal heard Rachel Lowthian, the claimant's line manager, had made the comments deemed inappropriate in a meeting on May 29, 2020.

She suggested that Mrs Law might be able to do marking work from home whilst the baby slept and that if she kept working hard then ‘karma’ would mean things would work out for her.

The University's Chief Operating Officer David Chesser was slammed as 'dismissive' after he told Mrs Law that the suggestion that her pregnancy may have had an influence on the decision-making process was 'quite a statement to make' and appeared to shake his head as she was outlining her concerns, documents show.

In fact, Mrs Law herself was given further roles when earlier roles or tranches of funding had come to an end, including a short-term extension to her contract when her future was uncertain.

Judges said Mrs Law was not selected for redundancy because she was pregnant, but they were not convinced her employment had to end completely, particularly as others whose funding had expired at the same time were given new roles. 

The tribunal concluded: "It all has the air of a game of musical chairs in which, entirely coincidentally, the music stops just as the pregnant Mrs Law, with her four-year record of good service, adaptable skills and excellent feedback, is the one left furthest away from the remaining seats."

A spokesperson for the University said: "A remedy hearing [to determine compensation figures] is scheduled to take place at a future date, therefore we feel it would be inappropriate for us to comment at this time.”