Employee was fairly dismissed for redundancy reasons and not because she had taken maternity leave (Sedze v Bulb Interiors Ltd)

In the case of Sedze v Bulb Interiors Ltd ET/3347066/2016 the Employment Tribunal held that the Claimant (Ms Sedze) had been dismissed by the Respondent (Bulb Interiors Ltd) for redundancy reasons rather than because she had taken a period of maternity leave.

The facts in Sedze v Bulb Interiors Ltd

Ms Sedze commenced employment with Bulb Interiors Ltd, a small design company employing approx 9 to 10 people, in February 2014 as a Business Development Manager. Ms Sedze’s role primarily focused on telesales and the conversion of leads generated by the company’s Sales Director (who, at the time of her recruitment, was a Mr Scott).

In 2014 and 2015 Bulb Interiors did not grow that quickly, and it became clear that sales from new leads were not developing that well. It was established that most new business was coming from existing customers, with sales from new leads making up only 10% of business.

Ms Sedze went on maternity leave in December 2015. Whilst Ms Sedze was on maternity leave Manisha Kulkarni was recruited as a Business Development Manger. Despite her title, Ms Kulkarni’s role was significantly different to that of Ms Sedze.

In April 2016 Mr Scott resigned from his role as sales director after concerns over his performance were put to him. In early January 2016 it was also decided that not enough work was being generated by telesales and that it would be necessary to concentrate more on expanding existing business.

On 4 May 2016 Ms Sedze emailed the company to state that she wished to return to work on 4 July 2016. There was initially no response to her email, but she was subsequently asked to come in to a meeting on 23 June 2016. At that meeting she was informed that after Mr Scott’s departure it had been decided that the company would no longer pursue telesales, and that her role was therefore at risk of redundancy.

A formal consultation meeting took place on 5 July 2016. At that meeting Ms Sedze was informed that her position was at risk and, unless there was an alternative, she would be made redundant. It was discussed in this meeting that a suitable alternative role for Ms Sedze might be that of document controller (a new role). Ms Sedze was informed on 12 July 2016 that she would be made redundant. She was then put on garden leave and paid in respect of her redundancy entitlement. She appealed against her dismissal and her appeal was considered by an external HR consultant, Sarah King. Ms Sedze’s appeal was rejected.

The decision of the Employment Tribunal in Sedze v Bulb Interiors Ltd

The Employment Tribunal held that Ms Sedze had not been dismissed because of the period of maternity leave but because there was a genuine redundancy situation – the Tribunal found that the business had decided that telesales were no longer viable and to concentrate on other areas of the business.

The Tribunal further held that a fair procedure had been followed in making Ms Sedze redundant and that the company had made diligent efforts to look at alternatives to making her redundant – in particular, the Tribunal found that Mrs Kulkarni was not in a similar role to Ms Sedze and that it was therefore not unfair to not pool them together.


Our solicitors’ view on Sedze v Bulb Interiors Ltd

Chris Hadrill, a specialist employment solicitor at Redmans, commented on the case: “The Tribunal clearly held in this case that Ms Sedze’s dismissal had not been because of her period of maternity leave but because there was a genuine redundancy situation – if businesses want to make redundancies they should always be careful to ensure that there is a good reason for making redundancies and that a fair redundancy process is followed.”

The judgment of the Employment Tribunal can be found here