How an Employment Law solicitor at Martin Searle Solicitors obtained compensation for a woman unfairly selected for redundancy due to maternity discrimination.
Anna was employed by an international travel firm for five years. She had been promoted twice to a senior management position and managed three colleagues. When she became pregnant she decided to take shortened maternity leave of only four months and provisionally arranged with her line manager to return to work part-time.
After two months, the company announced a number of redundancies and Anna was told she would not be included in this. A couple of weeks later, when she sought to confirm her return to work terms, her manager told her she was to be managed by someone else. Shortly after this, she was informed that her job was at risk although her three colleagues’ roles were not. During the following month Anna was given vague and conflicting information regarding her position. The company stated that she might be made redundant unless they found her another job. Unsure of her rights, Anna approached us for advice.
Laura Donnelly, an Employment Law solicitor in Brighton, advised Anna that as a woman on maternity leave she had special rights in a redundancy situation. She was entitled to be offered all suitable alternative vacancies in preference to other staff at risk of redundancy.
We drafted her grievance asserting her rights and complaining that she had been put at risk of redundancy because she was on maternity leave, which was unlawful sex discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.
Anna’s grievance was not upheld and she lost patience with the company’s intermittent and vague attempts to identify another job for her. She told them her preference was to be made redundant.
She was given three months’ notice of redundancy during which her grievance appeal was heard and dismissed. During the grievance process, the company’s managers provided conflicting information about why her job had been deleted. It also became apparent that at the time Anna was being told she might be made redundant, her closest colleague had been given a new job that Anna knew she could do.
We lodged an Employment Tribunal claim complaining of maternity discrimination and unfair dismissal due to the failure to offer suitable alternative employment. The company defended their position by claiming that Anna was not capable of doing the job her colleague had been given.
Once documents were exchanged as part of the Employment Tribunal process, we discovered that this job represented a promotion and we added a claim for loss of earnings from the date of the colleague’s promotion, at the increased salary.
The company agreed to participate in Judicial Mediation, a form of alternative dispute resolution offered by the Employment Tribunal.
Anna’s potential award was restricted to injury to feelings plus limited loss of earnings because she had already received a statutory redundancy payment and was soon able to find another job at similar pay.
After much negotiation, the company paid Anna £10,000 and provided an agreed reference for prospective employers. This represented an equivalent sum when compared with the compensatory award that Anna might have won had she been successful at a hearing.
With the hearing due to take place in four months’ time this settlement provided a quicker resolution without the uncertainty and strain of having to argue her case before a Judge.