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Trainee hairdresser awarded €5,600 after claiming she was dismissed because of her pregnancy

The case was brought before the Workplace Relations Commission.

Image: Shutterstock/wideonet

A TRAINEE HAIRDRESSER has been awarded €5,600 after claiming she was dismissed from her job two days after telling her employer she was pregnant following a hearing at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC). 

The complainant was employed as a trainee hairdresser at the salon on 18 September 2018. She was informed on 29 June that her contract was being terminated. 

She claimed that she was dismissed due to the fact that she told her employer that she was pregnant. The employer denied the dismissal was unfair or that it was as a result of the employee’s pregnancy. 

Complainant’s case

As noted above, the complainant commenced work on 18 September 2018 as an apprentice/trainee hairdresser. 

She was provided with full-time employment and her most recent review was 8 June 2019. She maintained the review had been positive and claims she was told she was an asset. 

The employee said she informed the employer on 27 June 2019 that she was pregnant and claims she was congratulated. 

However, she said that two days later, on 29 June, she was informed that her contract was being terminated.

The complainant claimed that prior to being informed of the decision to dismiss her there had been no disciplinary issue raised with her and that she had not received any notice in writing. 

She also said that she had received a good reference from the employer. 

The complainant claimed that during her employment at the salon she was dismissed from, she was only subject to passing comments on her performance and did not have a face-to-face review until June 2019. 

She acknowledged the work was tough and exhausting but claims she was always good with the clients. 

She claimed nobody made her aware of the concerns that were presented by the employer at the hearing, which are outlined below.

Following her dismissal, the complainant was out of work for four weeks but soon found alternative employment. However, this employment offered fewer hours and she earned only €120 per week. 

She claimed that since finishing her maternity leave she suffered ongoing losses as a consequence of the dismissal. 

Dismissal

The complainant claimed that on 8 June 2019, before she went on holiday, the salon was busy and the employer didn’t get a chance to speak to her until the end of the day. 

She claimed that at the end of the day when she was cleaning up she was told the salon manager and director were meeting her to see how she was getting on and that it was a positive conversation. 

She said she was never told she could work any better and that nobody had asked her to do better. 

The complainant submitted that when she returned from her holiday there was no further discussion on her performance. 

She advised the employer that she was pregnant on 27 June 2019. She claims they seemed happy for her and congratulated her. 

She was dismissed on 29 June 2019.

The complainant alleges that the dismissal was due to the fact that she had told the employer that she was pregnant.

Respondent’s case

The respondent outlined that the employee was appointed by the salon manager because her sister-in-law was friendly with her parents. 

In the employer’s case, they claimed that the contract of employment, which was signed on 2 April 2019, stated that the probation period was for six months and that this could be extended to nine months if necessary. 

The employer maintained that as a trainee hairdresser, the complainant’s role included learning how the work was done, learning to help shampoo, meeting and greeting clients, and providing tea and coffee. The employer stated that the complainant was also required to source models so she could practice the skills. 

The respondent claimed that there were no concerns with the employee’s performance until after Christmas 2018. 

They claim that after the Christmas period there was a deterioration of performance where the employee was unable to work, was upset in the salon and where her duties suffered. 

The respondent’s case claimed that the employee was “moping around the shop, not coming in and would come in without makeup on”. 

It was claimed that despite the salon manager speaking to her, the complainant never came back with a positive response. 

By March 2019, the managing director had concerns that the contract was not working out and she was considering terminating the employment. 

However, it is claimed the salon manager said she would speak with the complainant and “take her under her wing”. The employer claims that despite speaking with the complainant on many occasions, the salon manager observed no improvement. 

In her case, the complainant claimed that she did not sit down with the employer in March 2019 as suggested and there was only one comment on her makeup once. 

The employer claimed the employee was asked to get models in for training, but this didn’t happen.

The employer also alleged that there had been no improvement by June 2019. As noted in the complainant’s case, the director and manager met with the employee on 8 June 2019 before she went on holiday. 

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The respondent claimed the employee was advised of the concerns that had been observed, that the training was a tough four years and that she was asked if she wanted a career in hairdressing.

In her case, the complainant claimed that hairdressing as a career was never mentioned to her during the discussion. 

It was claimed in the respondent’s case that there were no notes taken of this meeting. 

The director outlined that for a day or two after the employee returned from her holiday she was upbeat. However, after a week the feedback from staff members was there was no change, it was claimed. 

The director concluded the job was not for the complainant and had decided to terminate the contract, it was claimed. 

The employer claimed that before sharing the decision to dismiss her, the employee informed the salon manager that she was pregnant on 27 June 2019. 

The employee was informed of her dismissal on 29 June. It was claimed that the salon manager and director explained they had no problems with facilitating staff who are pregnant and denied the decision to dismiss the complainant was because she was pregnant.

The employer claimed that the decision to dismiss the employee was based on her performance during her extended probation period. 

The respondent acknowledged there were no notes of the performance review meetings held with the complainant, nor was there any written notification of extending her probation period in March 2019.

The employer maintained that another employee had become pregnant in 2018 and that there were no issues about bringing that employee back to work. 

The respondent denied that there was an unfair dismissal. 

Decision

In his findings, WRC adjudicator Gerry Rooney said he found that “whilst the respondent may have had concerns about the complainant’s performance, it did not provide written evidence that it had spoken to the complainant formally about her performance”. 

Rooney added that the respondent did not “put the complainant on formal notice that the termination of her contract of employment was likely to occur if her performance did not improve”. 

“Furthermore, it afforded the complainant an opportunity to take annual leave after 8 June 2019 and upon her return had decided to dismiss her but that the complainant told the respondent she was pregnant before it had told her she was to be dismissed,” Rooney said. 

“It is noted that the respondent gave a positive reference to the complainant that does not indicate any of the concerns it is relying upon to justify her dismissal,” he said. 

Rooney found that the decision to dismiss the complainant related to her pregnancy. He found that the complainant was unfairly dismissed. 

The complainant was awarded €5,600 gross for her financial loss and loss of future earnings which considers her period of maternity leave. 

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