Pregnant Employee Awarded £50K After Employer Didn’t Send Promotion Opportunities While She was on Maternity Leave

In the case of Miss R Smith v Greatwell Homes Limited, a pregnant employee was awarded £50,000 due to discrimination whilst on maternity leave.

The Facts in Miss R Smith v Greatwell Homes Limited

Background – How it Began

Miss Smith (“The Claimant”) began working for Greatwell Homes Limited (“The Respondent”) in March 2019. She was a business improvement analyst under a business improvement manager and head of business intelligence.

From August 2019, the business improvement manager had been on long-term sick leave due to ill health. Furthermore, their absence was made permanent when they decided to resign in early 2020. This and a backlog of work before the claimant’s employment meant she had a significant and challenging workload from the start.

Miss Smith’s success in taking on a significant portion of her former manager’s tasks didn’t go unnoticed. Miss Herzig, the head of business intelligence at the time, described the claimant as a valuable and ambitious staff member. She also encouraged Miss Smith to pursue a line manager role when one became available.

However, the claimant suggests things changed when she informed Miss Herzig that she was pregnant in April 2020. Miss Herzig failed to communicate this to HR properly, meaning she had to confirm her pregnancy with them twice more.

The ‘Free Day’ Incident

Also in April 2020, the company offered all staff members a free day off. This was a good gesture due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which happened to be on a Friday. However, Miss Smith didn’t work Fridays, so she requested if she could take this another day. The tribunal heard how the company refused her request and wouldn’t reconsider.

Job Vacancies Weren’t Sent Out

In September 2020, Miss Smith went on maternity leave. It was found that she intended to take the full 12 months but would return earlier if necessary. The tribunal heard how she received almost no communication from her employer during her time off. Other than some pension emails from HR and personal messages from Miss Herzig, correspondence was minimal.

On 5 April 2021, the claimant was informed by text of a major restructuring in her workplace. She was also told that a new business improvement manager had been appointed and someone had been picked for a new governance and assurance Manager role. It was made clear to the tribunal that Miss Smith hadn’t been made aware of these vacancies and only started to receive job adverts in August 2021.

A Grievance was Raised

Feeling unhappy about the text and lack of communication, Miss Smith commenced a grievance. This was heard by Mr Wilesmith, who didn’t uphold her grievance. Subsequently, the claimant appealed the decision, and this was partially upheld on 28 June 2021.

Shortly after receiving the job adverts in August 2021, Miss Smith handed in her resignation letter on the 31 of that month. Her employer accepted her resignation, and on 7 September 2021, she lodged her claim to an employment tribunal. This was after attempting early conciliation between June and August.

The Decision of the Employment Tribunal

The employment tribunal made several statements following their findings. They concluded that:

  1. Miss Herzig’s failure to communicate Miss Smith’s future maternity leave to HR showed her poor attitude toward a pregnant employee.
  2. Denying the claimant her free day off further indicated the respondent’s general deficient approach to diversity issues.
  3. The appointed managerial positions were progression opportunities for the claimant, and future job adverts were attempts to cover any wrongdoings.
  4. The grievance procedure was severely deficient and was neither fair nor thorough.

The tribunal went on to say that both Miss Herzig and Mr Wilesmith demonstrated insufficient knowledge, skills or empathy to deal with a pregnant employee. Furthermore, they suggested that both were ill-equipped to deal with equality and diversity issues.

As a result, the tribunal ruled that the respondent treated Miss Smith less favourably because she was on maternity leave, protected under the Equality Act 2010. Following the tribunal’s findings of pregnancy discrimination, Miss Smith was awarded £50,000 in compensation.

Contact us now if you have experienced pregnancy discrimination or something similar. Redmans Solicitors are very experienced in all areas of employment law. We can discuss the facts of your case and advise you on your possible next steps.