Mother with extreme morning sickness wins tribunal against B&Q

Mother with same extreme morning sickness as the Duchess of Cambridge wins discrimination case after her ‘unsympathetic’ B&Q boss dismissed her illness as an ‘impediment’

  • Frankie Kite suffered extreme morning sickness while working at B&Q in 2018
  • Her manager Adrian Barnett was said to be ‘frustrated’ by her sickness days
  • He ignored her request not to work late shifts at the store in Witney, Oxfordshire
  • An employment tribunal has ruled in Mrs Kite’s favour with payout in the pipeline

A B&Q manager has won a discrimination case after an ‘unsympathetic’ manager dismissed her extreme morning sickness, saying ‘she is always sick’. 

Frankie Kite suffered the same severe pregnancy condition as the Duchess of Cambridge and is now in line for compensation after successfully suing the DIY giant for unlawful pregnancy and maternity discrimination and unfair dismissal.  

An employment tribunal in Reading heard that Mrs Kite’s sickness ‘frustrated’ newly appointed unit manager Adrian Barnett who felt it was an ‘impediment’ to his work at the store.

Mr Barnett moaned about her absences and repeatedly denied Mrs Kite’s requests not to work late shifts at the store in Witney, Oxfordshire. 

It was at this time that the symptoms of her Hyperemesis Gravidarum worsened and she felt nauseous and unwell.

Frankie Kite has successfully sued the British DIY giant for unlawful pregnancy and maternity discrimination and unfair dismissal

Employment Judge Laurie Anstis said B&Q unit manager Adrian Barnett had a ‘pattern’ of ‘being frustrated by the difficulties of Mrs Kite’s pregnancy-related illness’

What is Hyperemesis Gravidarum?

Morning sickness is common with around 8 out of every 10 pregnant women affected during pregnancy.

For most women, this improves or stops by around weeks 16 to 20, although it can last longer.

Excessive nausea and vomiting is known as hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), and often needs hospital treatment.

They might be sick many times a day and be unable to keep food or drink down, which can impact on their daily life.

Exactly how many pregnant women get HG is not known as some cases may go unreported, but it’s thought to be around 1 to 3 in every 100.

If you are being sick frequently and cannot keep food down, tell your midwife or doctor, or contact the hospital as soon as possible. There is a risk you may become dehydrated, and your midwife or doctor can make sure you get the right treatment.

 Source: NHS

Mrs Kite scored the highest marks in B&Q career progression reviews but Mr Barnett didn’t encourage her to apply for a senior position because he didn’t think she was suitable due to her pregnancy. 

The tribunal heard Mrs Kite was an ‘ambitious’ trading manager who was ‘poised for a move to a more senior position’ in 2018.

At that time, she became pregnant with her daughter and began suffering severely from Hyperemesis Gravidarum – which mother-of-three Kate Middleton also suffered during pregnancies.

The condition leaves expectant mothers severely nauseous, exhausted, dehydrated and causes weight loss. In the Duchess of Cambridge’s case, she had to be admitted to hospital.

The tribunal heard Mr Barnett was appointed at the store to improve its success and Mrs Kite had significant absences due to her condition.

Despite being aware of her condition, Mr Barnett quickly formed the view Mrs Kite was ‘not such a high performer’.

When she enquired about a senior role at another store after her maternity leave, Mr Barnett told her she would have to ‘prove herself’ first.

In August 2018 Mrs Kite was vomiting at work and nauseous so asked Mr Barnett to leave. He replied ‘what will you do differently at home rather than here?’ and ‘made her uncomfortable’ about asking to leave early.

She told the tribunal she felt she had no choice but to work late shifts.

Mrs Kite said: ‘On numerous occasions during August and September 2018 I asked Adrian if I could do minimal late shifts due to my symptoms worsening in the afternoons and evenings.

Mrs Kite, pictured with her husband, gave birth in December 2018 and resigned in 2019 before starting her own business with a friend

‘This is something I had been asking for since my return to work meeting on June 24, 2018. Despite my requests, during the first week of September 2018 I was required to undertake three late shifts, with Adrian doing none.

‘On September 8, 2018, Adrian was on the early shift and I was on the late shift. Throughout the day, I was struggling with severe nausea and sickness.

‘When I told Adrian about this, he was unsympathetic and dismissed my comments by saying, “oh are you?”

‘Two of my colleague were concerned enough to approach Adrian but he responded by saying “but she is always sick at the moment”.

‘Due to Adrian’s attitude and being the only manager and trained first-aider in the store, I had no option but to remain at work between 4pm and 8pm when I was not actually fit to be at work.’

Mr Barnett finally granted Mrs Kite’s requests when she got a doctor’s note. 

She raised a grievance however and an ‘inadequate’ investigation carried out by unit manager Jeff Henderson later concluded: ‘I think we have supported [her pregnancy] in the best possible way.’

The tribunal also heard Mrs Kite was told by outgoing manager Luke Thorne she would not receive promotion because she was pregnant, however this didn’t amount to discrimination as they were friends and it was ‘professional advice’.

Employment Judge Laurie Anstis said Mr Barnett had a ‘pattern’ of ‘being frustrated by the difficulties of Mrs Kite’s pregnancy-related illness’.

Judge Anstis said: ‘The impression we have formed from the evidence is that Mr Barnett saw her ongoing pregnancy-related illness as an impediment to his attempts to restore the store to good performance.

‘Mr Barnett was impatient for the store to be brought to success, and gave little or no thought to the difficulties that Mrs Kite may be having.

‘Mr Barnett was aware of her pregnancy-related illness from the start of his time as unit manager, yet… there is nothing to suggest he ever made any accommodations or allowance for that until presented with the fit note, which occurred much later in the process.

‘He treated her unfavourably because of her pregnancy related illness and absences.’

Mrs Kite gave birth in December 2018 and in 2019 resigned then started her own business with a friend.

A hearing to determine compensation will be held at a later date.

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