Make sure that maternity returners are treated fairly

A senior banker has won claims for sex discrimination, maternity discrimination and harassment at an Employment Tribunal, after she complained her job had been “marginalised” after she gave birth.

The employee joined Commerzbank in 2012. She became deputy to the head of market compliance in May 2014. She was identified as a potential successor for the current head of market compliance and when the role became available she was interviewed for the post. In November 2015, she announced that she was pregnant. An external candidate was offered the head of markets compliance role in December 2015.

In March 2016, the employee took maternity leave and a junior employee was designated her maternity cover. She returned to work in September 2016 but felt that her position had been “eroded” since she returned from maternity leave and she complained that she was “feeling marginalised”. She also wondered if she might have been successful for the promoted post, had she not been pregnant at the time of the recruitment process.

The tribunal found there had been “no real intention” for the employee to return to her duties and that, as suspected, she had not been fairly considered for promotion in 2015. This case demonstrates the importance of ensuring that pregnant employees are treated entirely equally – in every respect, including being considered for promotion; and that maternity returners are given their “old job” on their return.  Regardless of how effective maternity cover might be, returners must be treated fairly and be given credibility as a valued employee.

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