Pay rise refused due to approaching maternity leave

An HR assistant at a construction company was unfairly refused a wage increase because she was about to go on maternity leave, a tribunal ruled. The former employee felt “disillusioned” by the decision of her employer to refuse her pay rise request because she would only be working for four months before going on leave.  She said that “instead of seeing her pregnancy and impending maternity leave as a happy time to be enjoyed, it was tainted with mixed feelings as it was the stated cause of the reason she was initially refused the pay rise”.

She went on maternity leave with her first child and, whilst on leave, the more junior HR coordinator also went on maternity leave and the company recruited a fixed-term employee.  The employer’s intention was to pay £27,000 per annum to the person covering. The successful candidate asked for £28,000 and the company agreed in order to fill the vacancy. When the maternity cover employee became employed permanently, her salary decreased to £27,000.

The tribunal heard that former employee found it “deeply unfair” and the fact that there was only a £3,000 difference between her salary as an HR assistant compared to the maternity covers more junior role “undervalued her work and her experience”.  The Head of HR agreed to make a business case for a raise, although the tribunal found that it was a “very generalised discussion” prompted by the former employees request for a wage increase.

The Head of HR had his regular weekly HR meeting with the finance director and managing director. The former employee had told her manager that she was pregnant again and she gave him permission to share this in the meeting.  The former employee told the tribunal that she spoke to the Head of HR after the meeting and he said he made the request for a pay rise but it had been refused by the directors because she was due to commence a period of maternity leave and she “would only be in the business for four months [so] a pay rise was not feasible”.

The Tribunal Judge found that the refusal of a pay rise was unfavourable treatment and an act of “overt discrimination”. She added “Even if she was not entitled to a pay rise, the refusal to exercise discretion in favour of giving a pay rise because of impending maternity leave is clearly unfavourable.” The tribunal awarded the former employee £9,000 for injury to feelings.

Should you have any questions relating to maternity then call 121 HR Solutions on 0800 9995 121 for a non-biased viewpoint on how to manage such situations.

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