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Case Studies

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Unlawful treatment of working mum on maternity leave

Published 14 April 2022

When Cerys a mother of four boys discovered she was pregnant and finally expecting a girl she was delighted – but her employer was not in the mood to celebrate the good news.

The reaction of her boss was ‘not again’ and he told her it was an issue the business would have to consider.

He pointed out the request by Cerys, a manufacturing technician, for flexible working after her last pregnancy was problematic for the company, so this new ‘issue’ would have to be considered.

During the early stages of her high-risk pregnancy Cerys suffered severe morning sickness and required intermittent time off work.

This led the manager to inform Cerys that her attendance was unacceptable and a serious concern.

She was invited to attend a disciplinary hearing the following week and warned dismissal was a potential outcome. Cerys was distraught.

Prior to the hearing an updated letter sent to Cerys said her poor performance in recent months would also be considered at the meeting.

Cerys, who had worked for the company for about eight years, felt vulnerable and unable to face the hearing on her own.

As she had a statutory right to be accompanied at a disciplinary hearing, she asked a male colleague to accompany her at the meeting.

Her workmate agreed to do it, but unfortunately the stress of the whole situation made Cerys ill.

She was signed off work by her GP after being diagnosed with work-related stress. The employer stopped the disciplinary process.

Cerys was not well enough to return to work and her daughter was later born prematurely. The little girl was fit and healthy.

While off on maternity leave Cerys received a letter informing her she was at risk of redundancy.

She contacted her employer immediately, was told not to worry and assured she would be kept up to date.

The next time Cerys heard from her employer was via a letter confirming she was being made redundant.

Cerys was disgusted by the way she was being treated and believed it was grossly unfair.

She contacted the Castle Associates Employee Support Centre for help.

Our representative discussed the case with Cerys. He was shocked by the way she had been treated, both before and after giving birth.

Unfortunately, it is not the first time he has had to deal with a working mum being treated in such an appalling manner.

Our representative submitted a redundancy appeal on behalf of Cerys. It was on the grounds the decision and process were unfair and discriminatory.

Our representatives will always thoroughly examine the redundancy process, request more details in relation to it and challenge it if it is flawed or unfair.

In doing so in this case it emerged that in in a team of four representatives, which included Cerys, just one role was being made redundant. It was her role.

Cerys had not been consulted or informed of a selection process prior to being made redundant.

At the redundancy appeal hearing  our representative pointed out a woman on maternity leave has special rights in a redundancy situation and should be offered any suitable alternative roles in preference to other staff at risk of redundancy.

He maintained that not only was the process unfair but as Cerys had been put at risk of redundancy while on maternity leave, it can be considered to amount to unlawful sex discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.

The hearing was also told Cerys had been subjected to unfavourable treatment by her manager in his comments and the sham disciplinary process, prior to her taking maternity leave.

The director who chaired the appeal hearing appeared genuinely shocked by what she had heard. She assured Cerys that she took the matter seriously and that if it helped the manager in question had ‘moved on.’

Cerys loved her job and her desired outcome was to return to work. Her appeal was successful and she later did so.

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