How Fiona Martin, expert Employment Law solicitor based in our Brighton office, negotiated a higher compensation offer for an employee offered a Settlement Agreement due to claims of Maternity Discrimination and Indirect Sex Discrimination.
Chloe was employed by a design consultancy, after being headhunted to be in charge of New Business Development in September 2019. She was the only employee who had children and the only part time employee. She discovered she was pregnant the following month with her second child.
While on maternity leave in the summer of 2021, she was told that Helena, the person she had replaced and who had gone to work for a competitor, was coming back to the company. Chloe continued to give advice on projects and presented a pitch but was not paid for any of these Keeping in Touch days.
In February 2021, she submitted a request to return to work 3 days a week rather than the 4 days she had been working and to extend her maternity leave by 3 months until September 2021. This was granted.
On returning on 27 September she was told by one of the directors that Helena would be running the sales management which was a large proportion of her role. Chloe felt she had no option but to agree as she was worried about being made redundant. She was told to discuss her new role with Helena and to decide what her new responsibilities would be.
She took on a lot of work and in November she was asked to work on a new project called Ice Scope, which was a client she had successfully worked with at her previous employer. On 19 November it was confirmed they had won the new project.
Chloe asked for more support as there was too much work for someone working 3 days a week but this wasn’t forthcoming. When the client at Ice Scope sent an email chasing updates, Chloe was blamed for this, despite continuing to work many additional hours without any of the additional resources she had asked for.
She received contradictory instructions to prioritise the Ice Scope project but then was asked to attend sales meetings. She suggested using this time for Ice Scope.
She was also asked to attend a face to face meeting at a time when the government was stating that you should work at home if you could. She explained she couldn’t come in as her daughter had been sent home from school as she had suspected Covid and her husband was working in Europe. Despite working her hours when the children were in bed Chloe felt she was being treated as if she was not pulling her weight and the expectations on what she could deliver in 3 days were unrealistic.
On 20 January, Chloe was invited to an HR Investigation Meeting which was held by an external HR Consultant. There were a number of low level allegations which included a failure to carry out appraisals for some of her team, two job specs were sent which they claimed were wrong. They also claimed that she had failed to produce a biography of herself for the website in a timely manner and that she lacked familiarity with their software systems. Chloe strenuously denied these allegations and provided examples of why these allegations were incorrect and unfair.
The following day, Chloe was offered a Settlement Agreement with a tax free compensatory sum of £3,500 and her contractual notice and accrued holiday pay.
Chloe sought legal advice and Fiona advised that the compensation offered was insufficient.
Chloe was advised to draft a formal grievance and we added in the legal claims which were unfavourable treatment while on maternity leave, indirect sex discrimination and Less Favourable Treatment due to Part Time Working.
We returned with a counter offer on 31 January 2022 based on a tax-free compensatory award worth 6 month’s pay. We also noted that our client had been underpaid her new pro rated salary. This was rectified immediately.
We also helped our client draft her Subject Access Request to find out more about why her predecessor had been rehired when she was on maternity leave.
The company’s HR Consultant counter offered £7,000 on 31 January 2022 which Fiona advised her client to reject.
The HR Consultant then offered 5 month’s net pay (£14,250) on 3 February 2022. We rejected this and offered to settle for 6 months net pay, contractual notice and holiday pay, on the condition that Chloe’s legal fees were paid in full at £2000 plus vat, rather than just their contribution towards legal fees of £500 plus vat in the Settlement Agreement.
We finalised the Settlement Agreement on 4 February 2022 and agreed that her grievance and Subject Access Request would be withdrawn. Chloe was delighted as Fiona had increased her compensatory offer from £3,500 to £17,000 in just a few weeks and all her legal fees were paid.
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