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News of a new arrival signals an all too familiar unfair disciplinary process

Published 25 May 2022

Gemma’s rise through the ranks at the pub chain where she worked for was impressive – but a bit of good news nearly proved fatal for her career.

She started out cleaning and washing up at her local pub before progressing to regional manager during her 12 years’ service.

When Gemma informed her boss she was pregnant with her first child, things quickly started to go wrong.

And just weeks before Gemma was due to take maternity leave, she was suspended from work for alleged poor management and displaying poor commercial and practical skills.

It followed a long period of unfavourably treatment after Gemma told her boss she was pregnant.

It included him saying that Gemma going on maternity leave would be unhelpful to the business and her career, because her pubs were the worst regional ones run by the company.

Shortly after being suspended Gemma attended an investigation meeting as part of the disciplinary investigation process.

At the end of the meeting Gemma’s manager asked if he could have a word with her. Crucially he did not say it was an off the record conversation.

Gemma was allowed to be accompanied at the investigation meeting by a female colleague. She was present when the manager spoke to Gemma afterwards.

He said if Gemma resigned she could go and play mummy, would get paid her three months’ notice period and as an act of goodwill will receive an additional tax-free payment the equivalent of one month gross salary

Gemma rejected the offer, and she was later invited to attend a disciplinary hearing.

The allegation was effectively underperforming in her role, which had caused the business to lose trust and confidence in her.

No evidence was provided with the invite to the hearing. The employer claimed it was to protect the privacy of witnesses and for data protection reasons.

Gemma contacted the Castle Associates Employee Support Centre for help. Our representative was appalled by the way she had been treated as a direct result of her pregnancy.

He raised a formal grievance on behalf of Gemma on grounds, which included discrimination, unfair treatment and being denied a fair disciplinary hearing.

The grievance requested the disciplinary process be stopped in accordance with section 46 of the ACAS Code of Practice until the complaint had been heard, investigated and resolved.

The employer initially refused to do so, but after further correspondence with our representative it agreed.

At the grievance hearing our representative maintained treatment of Gemma was discriminatory and unlawful because of her pregnancy.

Reference was made to the negative and insulting comments by the manager in relation to Gemma’s pregnancy and how he indicated it was unhelpful to the business.

Evidence in relation to Gemma’s performance, which was excellent, was requested and provided prior to the hearing. It was presented and used to demonstrate no concerns had been raised previously.

Gemma’s female colleague who accompanied her at the investigation meeting provided a witness statement. She confirmed what the manager said to Gemma and that he never said the chat was off the record, which meant it could be referred to as evidence.

It was also argued that in the employer failing to provide evidence to support the disciplinary allegations prior to the hearing, it was a serious breach of the ACAS Code that all employers should adhere to. The grievance hearing was told the company’s explanation for failing to do so was illogical and unjustifiable.

Gemma’s desired grievance outcome was for the sham disciplinary process to be stopped, action taken against her manager and she be allowed to take her maternity leave.

An hour after the hearing the HR director called Gemma to say the disciplinary case had been dismissed. He apologised for how she had been treated and allowed Gemma to take the last month before her maternity leave off work on full pay.

After returning to work following maternity leave, a new manager greeted Gemma.

 

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