Healthcare worker, 30, who came to the UK from Zimbabwe to ‘become a better version of herself’ is awarded £25,000 by an employment tribunal after she was sacked for being pregnant

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  • Felicity Khupe did not tell bosses she was pregnant when offered employment
  • She was sacked after they found she was six months along on her second day 

A healthcare worker has been awarded more than £25,000 after she was fired by bosses only days after arriving in the UK when they found out she was pregnant.

Felicity Khupe dreamed of ‘becoming a better version of herself’ when she left Zimbabwe for Britain last year while expecting her second child after a UK firm sponsored her to come.

However, she had not told them she was pregnant, and when the 30-year-old revealed on her second day in the country that she was six months along, bosses told her this made things ‘a bit tricky’, an employment tribunal heard.

It was told this was followed by higher-ups saying they would cancel her sponsorship and she should go back to Zimbabwe ‘as soon as possible’ – with Mrs Khupe likely having to go back in August.

Now Mrs Khupe has won compensation after successfully suing Comforting Hands Recruitment for unfair dismissal and maternity discrimination, with the tribunal finding she ‘missed out on the excitement of being a mother’ and now ‘lives in fear of being deported’.

The company, based in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, trains staff for deployment to residential homes and nursing homes across Yorkshire, East Riding and the North East.

On its website, it boasts being the provider of ‘talented’ nurses, care assistants and support workers to private, public sectors and within the community.

The tribunal, held in Leeds, heard Mrs Khupe arrived in the city from Zimbabwe on Friday, July 1, last year and the company had ‘promised’ to provide her with accommodation for her first two months in the country.

She 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 Mrs 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 Mrs Khupe the next day, telling her that ‘unfortunately’ because of her pregnancy she could not continue working there.

Mrs 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 Mrs Khupe left company accommodation the following Saturday, just one week after arriving from Zimbabwe.

The 30-year-old, pictured here with her son, had travelled from Zimbabwe to start a job as a healthcare worker

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.

Mrs 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 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.’

Mrs Khupe was awarded £10,000 compensation for injury to feelings as well as £14,790 for loss of past and future earnings.

Including interest, Mrs Khupe’s total compensation awarded was £25,810.

Speaking after the ruling about winning her claims, Mrs 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.’

Mrs Khupe, who is married and has another eight year old son, gave birth to healthy baby Nhlanhla Dlamini in October last year.