How our expert maternity discrimination lawyers in Brighton helped a client in London (who wanted legal assistance via phone and email in order to balance her childcare needs) bring a maternity discrimination and constructive dismissal claim for more than £20,000.
Amber worked for her employer as a Research Director. She was responsible for a number of her employer’s big clients and supervised a team of four analysts, including James.
In January 2011, Amber became pregnant and in September 2011, went on maternity leave.
Amber heard nothing from her employer until March 2012, when she was sent a letter from James advising her that her job was at risk of redundancy.
Amber contacted her employer’s HR Manager and learned that James had been assigned most of her former clients. She also discovered that James had been promoted to Research Manager and she suspected that he had taken over most of her role, even though he had a slightly different job title. She pointed this out and the company did not pursue making her redundant.
In July 2012, her employer appointed a new troubleshooting CEO, Rosie.
Rosie arranged to meet with Amber in August 2012, shortly before Amber was due to return from maternity leave. Amber thought that this would be a good opportunity to discuss her plans to return to work over the coming weeks and win-back a number of clients which James had not been able to retain. Instead, Rosie announced that there was going to be a restructure, which would mean that Amber’s job would no longer be required. Amber was offered a new role which was effectively a demotion, as it meant that she would be reporting to James, whereas prior to leaving, James had reported to her.
Amber advised that she did not consider this new role to be suitable alternative employment. Rosie told Amber “you have to expect these risks when you go on maternity leave; that’s just what happens”. Amber was shocked to hear this. Rosie later denied making this comment.
Rosie left Amber feeling side-lined as she had been given an ultimatum that she should either leave or return to this more junior role.
Amber raised a grievance, complaining of maternity discrimination on the basis that her job had been given to James while she was on maternity leave, and that she was being demoted. This was heard by her employer’s Group Director, Jason, who rejected Amber’s grievance.
Amber appealed her grievance outcome but again this was rejected. The only concession that her employer offered was that Amber would report directly to Rosie rather than to James. Amber was still left with the prospect of returning to a job that was less senior and skilled, requiring her to assist the person who had taken away her main responsibilities. Also, Amber would be reporting to someone who she did not trust and who had discriminated against her.
Amber resigned because of maternity discrimination, which was also a serious breach of her contract, causing an irretrievable breakdown of her trust and confidence in her employer.
Maternity discrimination claims can be brought where an employer treats their employee unfavourably because they are taking maternity leave.
Constructive dismissal is a claim that an employee can bring if they resign in response to their employer acting in a way that amounts to a fundamental breach of the employee’s contract.
Amber began to look for work elsewhere. She was excited to be head-hunted by a specialist recruitment agency who put her forward for an executive position with a prospective employer. Despite Amber’s first interview going very well and her being offered a final interview, this was unexpectedly withdrawn shortly before it was due to take place. Amber was aware that the recruiter had a LinkedIn connection with Rosie and suspected that Rosie and he had been responsible for this opportunity being taken away from her. A worker or employee can bring a victimisation claim where their employer – or in some cases, recruiters – expose them to a “detriment” because they have complained about discrimination.
We advised Amber on her rights and options in maternity discrimination law and served an Equality Act Questionnaire on both her former employer and the recruiter to obtain more information.
We negotiated with Amber’s legal expenses insurer in order to put in place funding that covered most of Amber’s legal fees. Although the insurer initially refused to take on her case as they did not think it was strong enough, we challenged their decision and negotiated an hourly rate that met most of our costs.
We issued two Employment Tribunal claims: a maternity discrimination and constructive dismissal claim against her employer and a victimisation claim against the recruiter. The claim against her recruiter had to be undertaken under a Damages Based Agreement as her legal expense insurance did not cover this type of claim.
We represented Amber at a Preliminary Hearing in the Employment Tribunal to ensure that both of her claims would be heard together at a single Hearing.
Amber was able to mitigate some of her loss of earnings as she set herself up as a consultant within a few months of resigning from her employer. Any money earned has to be deducted pound for pound from any compensation awarded which meant that the value of Amber’s claim decreased as her freelance work became more successful.
We still managed to negotiate an out of court settlement some months before the hearing with both the recruiter and her former employer, which totalled more than £20,000. This represented about 9 months’ loss of earnings for Amber, and was twice the amount of her former employer’s initial offer. As part of the settlement we also persuaded her former employer and the recruiter to agree to confidentiality and non-derogatory comments clauses to prevent them from discussing Amber or tarnishing her reputation with other prospective employers.
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