£10,000 Awarded in Pregnancy Discrimination at Work Case

Author:
Aneil Balgobin
Partner, Head of Employment Law
Date:
17/10/2019

A Maternity Discrimination Case Study - Client Situation

Ms A worked for an Estate Agency (the Company) as a Personal Assistant to the owner of the Company (Ms B) and had been employed for over 10 years. During an informal meeting, Ms B confirmed that Ms A would use nine months of her maternity leave entitlement, plus her two weeks remaining annual leave, with the aim to return to work after this period.

However, it was agreed that should there be a need to extend her maternity leave to the full 12-month entitlement, Ms A would be allowed to do so. No notice period was discussed in which Ms A had to provide to Ms B in order to extend her maternity leave. It was also agreed that when Ms A did return to work, it would be on a part-time basis with a reduced salary.

The dispute arose following Ms B’s plans to sell the Company and Ms A extending her maternity leave to 12 months, which Ms B expressly agreed to. Ms B had hired a full-time replacement for Ms A whilst she was on maternity leave but was also looking to sell the Company, citing a downturn in the market due to Brexit.

During an informal meeting, Ms B informed our client the only position available upon her return would be full time. Our client had significant financial commitments being a new mother and thus felt pressurised to accept the full-time role, despite it having been previously agreed that she could return to work part-time.

In reality, the Company had not expected Ms A to accept the full-time offer as it wanted Ms A’s locum replacement to continue in the role. Accordingly, it was clear that the Company had only offered Ms A this full-time role on the basis that it thought Ms A would not be able to undertake a full-time role for reasons connected to her being a mother and therefore did not envisage Ms A accepting the role. 

The dispute developed further when the Company tried to pressurise Ms A to attend the office when she did not have appropriate childcare in place. She was threatened with a disciplinary and potential dismissal. This was a very stressful time for Ms A and her family. It was at this stage that Ms A contacted our Employment Solicitors who got involved and took control of the dispute.

How We Helped

Our Employment Solicitors swiftly reviewed all documentation including letters, emails and text messages in order to provide Ms A with quick accurate advice. We swiftly prepared a letter to the Company’s Solicitors raising a formal grievance on behalf of Ms A. No response was received within a reasonable amount of time, so our Employment Solicitors sent a further grievance letter which stated that by delaying their response, our client, Ms A, was being subjected to victimisation and re-iterated the importance of resolving this matter swiftly for our client’s well-being.

The Company tried to portray the dispute as a verbal disagreement, but we pulled together evidence from emails and text messages to back up Ms A’s case. The Company knew that they were now in a difficult position and presented a settlement proposal. At this point, the working relationship had broken down and Ms A did not wish to return to work for the Company – however, she knew that she had a good case to take further if necessary.

Our Employment Solicitors spoke at length on the phone with Ms A and her partner in order to fully advise and take instructions, which led to us maximising her settlement outcome.

The Outcome

Our Employment Solicitors secured a total Settlement Agreement package in the region of £10,000 as well as a reference for future employers. Our legal fees were negotiated to be mostly covered by the Company, meaning our client’s costs were kept to a minimum. Both Ms A and her partner were very happy with the outcome.

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