LONDON, United Kingdom – A Zimbabwean woman has been awarded £25,000 (about US$32,000) after she was sacked for concealing a pregnancy when accepting a job in the United Kingdom.
Felicity Khupe, 30, moved to Harrogate, North Yorkshire, on July 1 last year after accepting a job as a nurse aide.
The agency which sponsored her, Comforting Hands Recruitment, runs several residential and care homes north of England. An employment tribunal heard that the company had promised Khupe two months of free accommodation but she was kicked out within two weeks of arriving.
Bosses were shocked when Khupe, while filling out a health form, disclosed that she was six months pregnant. The company told her that this made things “bit tricky” and bosses said they would cancel her sponsorship and she should go back to Zimbabwe “as soon as possible,” the Daily Mail reported.
Khupe filed a complaint against the company for unfair dismissal and maternity discrimination. The tribunal has now found that she “missed out on the excitement of being a mother” and now “lives in fear of being deported.”
The tribunal, held in Leeds, heard Khupe arrived with five other women and each was given her own room in a house.
However, after mandatory training over the weekend, the women were required to fill in a health questionnaire, where bosses discovered Khupe to be six months pregnant.
Giving evidence to the tribunal, she said: “I said ‘yes I am six months pregnant’ and that’s when [the care coordinator] said it was a bit tricky and she needed to talk to the director about it.”
The director visited Khupe the next day, telling her that “unfortunately” because of her pregnancy she could not continue working there.
Khupe told the hearing: “[She told me] she was cancelling her Course of Sponsorship so I have to go to back to Zimbabwe and I have to do it as soon as possible as I would be given 30 days by the Home Office after which my visa would be cancelled.”
The tribunal heard Khupe left company accommodation the following Saturday, just one week after arriving from Zimbabwe.
She said she would have taken six months unpaid maternity leave if she had been able to keep her job, from October 2022 until April this year.
However, on May 25, she was told by the Home Office she could only stay in the country legally for another 60 days unless she finds other work.
Khupe will have to return to Zimbabwe by August 10, it was heard.
Employment Judge Sophie Buckley said: ‘Mrs Khupe lost a job for which she had travelled from Africa with hopes of becoming what she termed ‘a better version of herself’.
“The treatment by [her employers] led to her feeling isolated. She has lost her confidence. She is living with her mother and has no social life. She missed out on the excitement of becoming a new mother – she has been living in fear of being deported.
“She knows that she will probably have to go home, and she feels that her hopes of becoming a better version of herself in a first world country have collapsed.
“I find that it is very difficult for her to find work because she needs an employer to provide her with sponsorship and employers are extremely unlikely to sponsor individuals already in the United Kingdom unless they already have at least six months experience working with the employer who brought them here.
“Mrs Khupe states that she will not find work at home – that is the reason why she came to the United Kingdom. She thinks that she will not return to the United Kingdom.”
Khupe was awarded £10,000 compensation for injury to feelings as well as £14,790 for loss of past and future earnings. Including interest, Khupe’s total compensation awarded was £25,810.
Speaking after the ruling about winning her claims, Khupe said: “It was really exciting. But I was really relieved as well. The whole situation made me feel like I was wrong to come to this country for a job while I pregnant.
“So, it was a relief to know nothing was wrong with me.”
Khupe, who is married and has another eight-year-old son, gave birth to healthy baby Nhlanhla Dlamini in October last year.