British Museum unfairly dismissed pregnant employee, tribunal finds
Geraldine Kendall Adams, 20.06.2018
Archaeologist wins financial settlement in discrimination case
A former employee of the British Museum has won a case for unfair dismissal and pregnancy discrimination against the institution.
Niki Savvides was employed by the museum as a training coordinator on a project to teach Iraqi archaeologists excavation and site management methods. Initially employed on a one-year fixed term contract, Savvides had expected that her role would continue for the five-year duration of the project.
She informed the museum of her pregnancy towards the end of her contract in early 2017, and was told shortly afterwards that the emphasis of the job was being changed and that she would be made redundant.
Savvides contended that the new role of project coordinator was so similar that it should be offered to her, but the museum chose to advertise it externally.
Savvides then applied for the new role but the museum withdrew her application when she informed them that she was unable to attend the interview due to pregnancy complications.
A tribunal found in favour of Savvides’ claim for unfair dismissal, and held that it was discrimination for the museum to withdraw her application for the new role. She has been awarded an undisclosed financial settlement.
Savvides was supported in her case by the union Prospect. Marion Scovell, the head of Prospect legal, said: “The law provides special protection for pregnant women facing a redundancy situation. In this case the tribunal recognised that Niki should have been offered any suitable available vacancy and the museum’s failure to do this made the dismissal unfair.”
Savvides said: "Going through this whole experience was very upsetting. Being pregnant and having complications with my pregnancy made it extremely difficult and there were many times I wanted to withdraw my case but I'm very happy that I persisted and finally won."
A spokeswoman for the British Museum said: "The British Museum values its employees highly and takes its responsibilities as an equal opportunities employer seriously, we aim to create a family friendly environment for all employees, through enhanced packages and flexibility and by consulting regularly with staff and representatives.
"The employment tribunal considered a case regarding the law on pregnancy discrimination, and came to its decision based on legal technicalities that were specific to this case."
Updated to include a statement from the British Museum.