Mother dismissed while on maternity leave and told to ‘go to the Jobcentre’ has been awarded £50k

Judge upholds all worker’s discrimination claims, ruling employer’s conduct caused ‘detrimental and adverse’ stress that affected her ability to breastfeed her baby.

A mother who was dismissed two months after giving birth and told to ‘go to the Jobcentre’ for money has been awarded more than £50,000 for pregnancy and maternity discrimination by an employment tribunal.

The tribunal found that the former employee had been discriminated against when she was fired while on maternity leave.  It found that the dismissal had a “detrimental and adverse impact” on her health and wellbeing, and even reduced her milk flow, affecting her ability to feed her child which caused “additional distress”.

The tribunal ruled that the employer, who did not have its own HR department, was nonetheless “not unsophisticated” and said that given its remit of advising on HR functions, there was “no excuse for not knowing the law”.  All of the claims for pregnancy and maternity discrimination were upheld.

During the period of maternity leave, the employer was in the process of being taken over by another company. The employee had raised a query over missing maternity pay and was told the employer had closed so she should “go to the Job Centre for any future money”. She went to the Job Centre but was told that they were unable to assist as she was already on maternity leave and that it was up to her employer to pay her. She reverted back to the employer but received no response.

She told the tribunal that after learning of her dismissal and the company’s refusal to discuss her maternity pay, she became depressed and was “constantly crying and stressed”. She also said that her new born daughter was “crying constantly” because her milk flow reduced.

The judge ruled that the companies were “not unsophisticated” and as their main role was to advise HR functions, “there was no excuse for not knowing the law”. The employee had no job during her maternity leave, and this had a detrimental and adverse impact upon her health and wellbeing and this adversely impacted her ability to feed her child, which caused additional distress,”.

The employee was awarded a total of £50,720 plus an additional £12,500 for injury to feelings.

Should you have any questions at all on maternity leave, contact 121 HR Solutions. This case really does evidence how not to treat employees on maternity leave. Employees on maternity leave are in a vulnerable position, with all the associated costs of having a baby, terminating without notice and refusal to pay their statutory payment, it is difficult to see how this could be anything other than maternity discrimination.

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