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Case Study: Helping A Teacher Made Redundant Due To Maternity Discrimination

Martin Searle Solicitors Employment Law Advice For Employees

Summary

How Martin Searle Solicitors helped a teacher negotiate an improved redundancy settlement after her employer inadvertently discriminated against her during the redundancy selection process.

The situation

Shona was employed by Castletown College as Head of Business at its Inner City Campus. She managed five teachers who taught a range of business and economics courses.

Over the course of her employment Shona had three children and her periods of maternity leave were close together.

Shona’s colleagues found the timing of Shona’s maternity leave ‎inconvenient. One spell of maternity leave began part way through a term and another started three weeks before an Ofsted inspection. This placed the department under a lot of pressure – two of her direct reports were off sick‎ with stress and the College had to engage supply teachers.

The College decided to restructure by merging the Head of Department roles across its two campuses. This meant that Shona’s role, and the Head of Business role at the ‎Outer City Campus, were both placed at risk. A fortnight after receiving her ‘at risk’ letter, Shona discovered that she was pregnant ‎again.

During the redundancy consultation, the College explained that they would choose the Heads of Department using a comprehensive scoring process, and judging performance at an interview which included a presentation. The scoring process involved asking 50 questions, the relevance of which were unclear.

The interview and presentation scoring was weighted in favour of the personal contributions made by the candidates towards the success of their departments.

Shona went through the selection process and was unsuccessful. The College informed her that she was redundant but offered her a ‘suitable alternative position’ as a maths teacher. Shona was unhappy because she felt she had been disadvantaged during the selection process due to absence on maternity leave.

What Martin Searle Solicitors did

Matthew Grant, a specialist employment lawyer in Eastbourne, identified that Shona’s redundancy was unfair and discriminatory. Although we could not demonstrate that the College has deliberately scored her negatively because of her successive maternity leaves, we demonstrated to the Head of HR that:

  • Many of the College’s scoring criteria were subjective, meaning that her redundancy would be unfair regardless of her pregnancy and maternity leave.
  • Some of the objective criteria disadvantaged Shona due to her absence on maternity leave. For example, the college scored both employees according to the number of lesson observations undertaken, training courses attended, academic articles published, research bids made and strategy meetings attended, where some meetings were in the evenings. Absence on maternity leave meant Shona was scored lower. This meant that the College were indirectly discriminating and this could not be objectively justified. Her selection for redundancy amounted to direct discrimination.
  • ‎ Shona’s morning sickness ‎adversely affected the quality of her presentation, making some of the feedback about her interview potentially discriminatory.
  • Shona was also disadvantaged at the presentation because her maternity leave had negatively impacted on her personal contribution to her departments success.

We managed to secure funding from Shona’s legal expenses insurer so that we could assist her in bringing a grievance to ensure an improved redundancy package.

The result

We negotiated a settlement equivalent to 15 months’ pay and we persuaded the College to offer a glowing reference. Shona was able to avoid the stress of an ongoing dispute while pregnant and could then enjoy an extended maternity leave to spend time with her family before having to look for another job.

If you are experiencing similar issues contact our employment law team on 01273 609911, or email info@ms-solicitors.co.uk for expert advice.

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