Many parents will say life changed forever when their first child was born… and some may even tell you that it also had a disastrous impact on their working life.
This certainly appeared to be the case for Ella who was dismissed after returning to work after the birth of her first child.
Ella had worked as a part-time office administrator for just under five years. When she was summoned to her manager’s office shortly after returning to work from maternity leave, she had no reason to think that anything was wrong.
What happened next was a shock, and Ella’s reaction to it would eventually lead to her unfair dismissal.
Ella was told by her bosses that her role was being made full-time. She explained she could not work full time due to childcare requirements. She was encouraged to give it some serious thought overnight.
The following day Ella met with a director of the business. She suggested recruiting someone else on a part-time basis to make up the additional hours.
Ella was told this could not be done, which was followed by the bombshell news that she was now at risk of redundancy.
She was later invited to attend what were said to be two redundancy consultation meetings with her employer.
Ella did ask her employers if she could be accompanied at the ‘consultation meetings’ and it said no. Her bosses explained that she had a statutory right to be accompanied at a disciplinary or grievance hearing, but there is no such obligation for redundancy consultation meetings.
Ella went ahead with the meetings and rightly argued that she could not be at risk of redundancy because there was clearly an increased need for the work that she does.
After the second meeting Ella was informed that she was being dismissed and would not get a redundancy payment. She was told that she would be paid up until her last day of service; receive her notice period and payment for any outstanding holidays.
To add insult to injury the company said that as a goodwill gesture it would give her a £500 lump sum – this was nearly £700 less that what she was entitled to as a statutory redundancy payment at that time (2016).
Ella was distraught and she contacted the Castle Associates employee support centre for help. Our representative was appalled at the way in which Ella had been treated. One of the first things he noticed was that Ella had not been informed of her right to appeal against the decision.
He immediately contacted the employer to say that Ella wished to appeal. The employer suggested there was no point as Ella could not do the job required, and therefore it was justified in letting her go.
Following discussions with our representative, the company did eventually agree to hold an appeal hearing. The grounds for appeal included unfair dismissal and discrimination.
Ella’s desired outcome to the appeal was reinstatement. The job was local and paid well. Prior to the appeal hearing Ella had started looking for alternative employment just in case her appeal was unsuccessful.
The day before the appeal hearing, Ella had a change of heart and said she no longer wished to be reinstated and would prefer a settlement agreement instead.
At the start of the appeal hearing our representative initiated a without prejudice conversation. The employer agreed to the discussion.
Our representative made it clear the redundancy was a sham and he highlighted the strength of Ella’s case going forward. He pointed out that if her discrimination claim was successful any compensation could be uncapped.
During the without prejudice discussion the employer accepted it ‘could have done things better.’ The focus of the discussion was then on the financial part of the settlement.
Ella was eventually able to agree a significant settlement with the company. She later secured a new job locally with slightly better pay, and the added bonus of convenient hours.
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For free employment law advice or if you are affected or want information and support by any of the issues in this article please give us a call. 0333 772 0611