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A pregnant nursery worker has won nearly £40,000 after her boss repeatedly refused to let her attend hospital appointments and fired her over a series of ‘trumped up’ allegations. 

Simone Cousins, 29, was accused of falsifying wages by Maria Noble at Dovecote Nursery, Northampton, without a shred of evidence in what a judge said was an ‘oppressive and high-handed’ campaign against her.

The employment tribunal, held virtually in Norwich, Norfolk, ruled Ms Cousins was made redundant because she was pregnant and awarded her £39,535 in damages for discrimination, harassment, and unfair dismissal. 

Mrs Noble ‘unreasonably’ denied Ms Cousins’ requests for days off for hospital appointments and forced her to change them to suit the nursery’s schedule.  

Ms Cousins was ‘pressured’ into working her normal hours despite suffering fatigue and nausea and was summoned ‘out of the blue’ to a disciplinary hearing on unfounded allegations, a tribunal heard.  

In one case, Mrs Noble even emailed Ms Cousins 90 questions at 5pm and demanded written explanations for them by 10am the next morning.  

Simone Cousins, 29, has received nearly £40,000 in damages after an employment tribunal concluded she was dismissed because of her pregnancy (pictured, with daughter Sophie)

Simone Cousins, 29, has received nearly £40,000 in damages after an employment tribunal concluded she was dismissed because of her pregnancy (pictured, with daughter Sophie)

Simone Cousins, 29, has received nearly £40,000 in damages after an employment tribunal concluded she was dismissed because of her pregnancy (pictured, with daughter Sophie)

The employment tribunal heard Ms Cousins, who worked at the nursery for two years, had a good relationship with Mrs Noble before she was pregnant. 

When pregnant, Ms Cousins requested time off for five appointments. One was granted, but others were refused or Mrs Noble forced her to reschedule them up to three times, causing issues.

No attempt was made by Mrs Noble to arrange cover, the tribunal found.

Without warning, Ms Cousins was called to a formal meeting where she was accused of claiming wages she didn’t work though no evidence was presented.

She later received a letter referring to ‘large discrepancies’ which claimed there was a difference of 58.5 hours.

Weeks later, out of the blue she was summoned to another meeting in which she was told she could be sacked for gross misconduct – this time it was alleged that she claimed 95 hours she didn’t work.

The hours were deducted from her pay and Ms Cousins answered 90 questions despite struggling to sit at a computer for a prolonged time.

The 95 hours were repaid but, bizarrely, she was sacked for gross misconduct on grounds that she falsified those hours and failed to use the sign in book.

Ms Cousins worked at the Dovecote Nursery, Northampton, (pictured) for two years before she dismissed

Ms Cousins worked at the Dovecote Nursery, Northampton, (pictured) for two years before she dismissed

Ms Cousins worked at the Dovecote Nursery, Northampton, (pictured) for two years before she dismissed

A tribunal ruled that Mrs Noble failed to listen to Ms Cousins’ answers and could have discovered that she wasn’t lying about hours worked if she bothered to check the work log.

Judge Robin Postle said Mrs Noble had made ‘totally illogical’ allegations.

‘Mrs Noble simply did not look at the evidence that was staring her in the face’.

The employment judge said the allegations were ‘patently untrue’ and that, ‘in fact Ms Cousins was being asked about matters that could readily have been answered by [the nursery] from their own records.’

Judge Postle added: ‘Mrs Noble… had maintained Ms Cousins was an honest and trustworthy employee, one of the best, and meticulous with her paperwork.

‘However, following the announcement of Ms Cousins’ pregnancy she was accused of falsifying wages without any evidence to support this claim and was then deducted 95 hours without warning or explanation.

‘Then, when she complained about it the hours and money were subsequently re-instated again without any explanation. That was oppressive and high handed.’

Ms Cousins said was relieved to win and that the it was 'a massive weight off my shoulders'

Ms Cousins said was relieved to win and that the it was 'a massive weight off my shoulders'

Ms Cousins said was relieved to win and that the it was ‘a massive weight off my shoulders’

The judge added: ‘The tribunal does acknowledge Ms Cousins was failing to sign in on occasions but this was mostly following her pregnancy when she forgot or was distracted by parents when entering the building.

‘Other staff had failed to do so and yet no disciplinary sanctions had been imposed. 

‘At the most, the proper sanction would have been to issue Ms Cousins with a written warning…. and making sure other staff signed in’, the tribunal judge said.   

He concluded ‘the dismissal simply does not stand up’, leading the tribunal to ‘the inevitable conclusion that the reason for the Ms Cousins’ dismissal was her pregnancy.’

The judge also said the nursery of 60 staff could have accommodated Ms Cousins’ appointment requests and have ‘clear legal obligations’ to do so.

Ms Cousins’, from Northampton, won her claims against Mrs Noble and The Nannery Ltd, Mrs Noble’s company, which runs four nurseries in Northampton.

Following the ruling, she said: ‘It’s such a relief to win, it feels like a massive weight off my shoulders.

‘The treatment I experienced was appalling, especially when you consider this was in the childcare industry and she [Mrs Noble] is a mother herself – she didn’t understand why I needed the appointments.’

Ms Cousins’ daughter, Sophie, now three, was born with an extremely rare congenital disorder called Apert Syndrome, which affects one in 100,000 babies.

Sophie required open heart surgery as a newborn, a stay at Great Ormond Street Hospital, and since has been in and out of hospital for operations so Ms Cousins cares for her and has not returned to work. 

Source: Daily Mail UK

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