Candice was employed by a leading online business as a Financial Controller. She took over the role from David, the Managing Director, who had insufficient time to run the business’ finances. The accounts were three months behind, they contained historic errors, and lots of key data was missing. Also, there were no adequate systems in place to allow Candice to provide accurate reports.
Candice worked hard to rectify matters. Although her progress was slow, David quickly realised that Candice was more than capable at turning things around.
With the help of two Assistants, Candice got the business through an audit and an inspection by HMRC. She put financial systems in place and trained her colleagues to follow them.
Five months into her employment, Candice told David she was pregnant. David said that he was delighted for Candice on a personal level, but he asked her how she thought the business would manage when she left to go on maternity leave. He also pointed out that the business was growing quickly and that it would take Candice time to catch up after her return. Candice assured David she would manage.
At Candice’s six-month probationary review meeting David was critical of Candice. He acknowledged that she was good at her role but complained that she had made little effort to relate to her colleagues during her employment. He also accused her of lacking initiative to grow the business. Candice felt this criticism was unfair because she had to concentrate on rectifying David’s inadequate management of the finances. This meant she did not have time to socialise with her colleagues. Also, her job was managing the accounts, not developing the company. David said that he needed somebody who was a ‘people person’ who had ‘vision’, and this was not Candice.
David told Candice that he was terminating her employment with notice to recruit a new Financial Controller who could meet these expectations. He said that he wanted to be ‘fair’ to Candice and not leave her in the lurch. He therefore offered her a junior accounting role. This was for a fixed-term, to end one month before her baby was due.
Candice was upset and felt she could no longer trust David. She was worried about losing her job three months before her baby was due – through no fault of her own.
We advised Candice on her rights and helped her to weigh-up her options. If Candice accepted the new role then she would protect her right to Maternity Pay, but at the same time the new role constituted a demotion. Candice strongly believed that she should not be discriminated against.
We helped Candice to raise a grievance against her employer complaining of discrimination and detriments. This explained the background to show that Candice’s performance had been good and set out the change in her employer’s attitude once she announced her pregnancy. This made it clear that Candice’s pregnancy and future maternity leave were the only reasons why David did not want her to work in this senior role.
After receiving the grievance, David agreed to offer Candice a Settlement Agreement which allowed for a handover period so she would not be deprived of any Maternity Pay. The Company paid Candice her usual salary, at the Financial Controller rate, up to the point when she would have started maternity leave. This meant that Candice was eligible to receive Statutory Maternity Pay for the next 39 weeks. The business also paid a contribution towards her legal fees and provided an agreed reference so Candice could secure work in the future.
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