Banker wins discrimination tribunal

A banker whose responsibilities were eroded while on maternity leave has won a seven-year legal battle against her employer. The employee who is still employed by the Company won claims for sex discrimination, maternity discrimination and harassment, after the tribunal found she was unfairly disciplined for her ‘divisive’ attitude.

In this complex case, the tribunal found that the employee was criticised by a male boss for returning to work after her waters broke, who stated that the employee had an unhealthy obsession with work and that she was too controlling.  Whilst on maternity leave, the criticism continued when she was discouraged from joining a quarterly team meeting.

When she returned from maternity leave, substantial elements of her job had been transferred to a junior employee, who was her designated maternity cover.  The employee claimed there was no formal handover and her junior employee no longer seemed to directly report to her.

It was also ruled that the employee had not been fairly considered for a promoted post she had applied for prior to maternity leave with the company appointing another male banker.

The tribunal found there was no prospect of the employee or another female colleague being appointed due to a stereotypical view of them as ‘divisive’ women. This was ruled as direct sex discrimination.

An employee from maternity leave should generally be entitled to return to the same job, on the same terms and conditions as if she had not been absent. Transferring elements of someone’s role should be avoided and employers should avoid making assumptions about the extent to which an employee may be prepared to be involved in the business during maternity leave.  Ideally this should be discussed prior to maternity leave with keep in touch days providing the opportunity for the employee to remain as involved as they choose.

Should you have any questions relating to maternity leave and entitlements, please call to speak to one of our CIPD qualified Consultants on 0800 995 121.

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