Pregnant Employee fired over snooping on colleague emails loses dismissal tribunal

In 2020 Paige Mowatt, a pregnant employee and former insurance broker, was dismissed from her management role within One Call Insurance over snooping on colleague emails.

To add context to the situation, Paige Mowatt worked as an insurance broker in a management role for One Call insurance, entering the role in February 2012, but was dismissed in September 2020. The HR group of One Call [Insurance] was first made aware of her pregnancy at the beginning of March via verbal communication, which was followed up two weeks later on March 23rd, and two days later, the company decided to initiate a Work-from-Home policy whilst having managers take on a more customer-facing role.

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On May 22 of the same year, both Miss Mowatt and One Call recognised that she was struggling in her role whilst the Work-from-Home policy was in effect, which led to her having a meeting with one of her managers, and subsequently, her focusing entirely on Live Chat with customers. Still, this reduction in her duties in a management role was not intended to be permanent which was recognised by the rate of pay remaining at that of her management role.

Later in June it was discovered that a policyholder, who was one of Miss Mowatt’s clients, had been without car insurance for approximately 6 weeks. It was discovered that she had in fact accessed the client’s file around a day after this was made aware to another one of Miss Mowatt’s managers, with the knowledge that this information was not, at the time, shared with Paige caused suspicion to be raised about why the information was accessed without knowing that the Policyholder had contacted One Call, IT was asked to collate a report on the E-mail accounts and Inboxes that Miss Mowatt had access to.

It was found that she had access to several different accounts of colleagues at varying levels of seniority, including two department heads, at that point it was decided that Paige’s email activity would be tracked for a period of time.

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It was later discovered that the Policyholders insurance claim was meant to renew on May 1 but was not actioned which is in violation of the FCA’s (Financial Conduct Authority) “Rules for Individuals” including serious breaches of confidentiality and “failure to carry out duties to the correct standard”.

Along with the breach of the FCA guidelines it was also found out that she was browsing online for baby products such as prams and cots during company time, which in most cases is classified as time theft and can be considered time theft but refer to your own company guidelines and handbook regarding this. This led to Miss Mowatt being dismissed from the company leading to an Employment Tribunal being formed at the request of Miss Mowatt. Being a pregnant employee is a protected category under the 2010 Equality Act.

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This then leads onto a hearing where it was found that, although Miss Mowatt did fall under a protected category of the act by being a pregnant employee, she was in breach of both contract, company policy and FCA rulings leading to the case being thrown out.

Although this does open up an interesting window to the feasibility for a potential breach of the 2018 General Data Protection Regulation act. Which we will be writing about how best to protect against breaches, responsibilities for both Companies and Individuals and the fines that accompany them.

You can find the report regarding this tribunal and the ruling here.