Withdrawal of settlement agreement not due to threat of Tribunal proceedings (Degnan v BP Services International Limited ET/3302969/2015)

In the case of Mrs C Degnan v BP Services International Limited 3302969/2015 the Employment Tribunal (the “ET”) held that the employer had not withheld payment of enhanced redundancy pay (to be paid via a settlement agreement) because the employee had threatened to bring an Employment Tribunal claim.

The facts in Mrs C Degnan v BP Services International Limited

Mrs Degnan commenced employment with BPO Services International Limited (“BP”) in May 2007 under a ‘global employment contract’; her first assignment was to Azerbaijan in 2007.

In October 2009 Mrs Degnan became pregnant; she took 12 months’ maternity leave and then became pregnant again in 2010. She took a further 12 months’ maternity leave and was absent from work until April 2012.

On 10 April 2012 Mrs Degnan was assigned to the BP Exploration Operating Company Ltd, based in Sunbury, UK. The assignment was for a period of three years and was due to expire on 9 April 2015.

Mrs Degnan took a third period of maternity leave in May 2013, returning to work on 22 September 2014. Prior to returning to work Mrs Degnan asked to work part-time hours.

In early 2015 BP carried out a review of its workforce and came to the conclusion that 10-20% of roles should be removed. A redundancy process commenced in January 2015 and on 19 January 2015 Mrs Degnan was informed that her role was at risk of redundancy. Leigh-Ann Russell chaired the redundancy process, scoring Mrs Degnan 9 out of a total of 15 points.

On 23 March 2015 Mrs Degnan was informed that she had not been placed in a new role and was still at risk of redundancy. In June 2015 Mrs Degnan was offered a new role in the Backbone Work Management Process and Technical Specialist Organisational Learning role team. Mrs Degnan rejected this role as she did not believe it was suitable for her. She was subsequently informed that “[BP] do not pay redundancy in relation to people who refuse job.” Following BP’s policies, Mrs Degnan was subsequently dismissed without a redundancy payment on 20 July 2015.

Mrs Degnan subsequently made Employment Tribunal claims for unfair dismissal, automatic unfair dismissal, and pregnancy-related detriment.

The decision of the Employment Tribunal

The Employment Tribunal rejected Mrs Degnan’s claims for the following reasons:

  • The dismissal was not unfair, either substantively or procedurally – her dismissal was for the reason of redundancy, a fair procedure was carried out, and efforts were made to find Mrs Degnan suitable alternative employment after her position was made redundant
  • Mrs Degnan’s dismissal was not related to the taking of her periods of maternity leave – the scoring was not discriminatory and Mrs Degnan was given every opportunity to succeed in her role
  • The decision to withdraw a settlement agreement, and withhold redundancy pay, was not related to claims for pregnancy and maternity discrimination that Mrs Degnan had threatened, but was following a well-established policy on the part of BP – the Employment Tribunal therefore rejected the claim for victimisation

Our solicitors’ views on the case of
Mrs C Degnan v BP Services International Limited

Chris Hadrill, the partner in the employment department at Redmans, made the following comment on the case: “This case shows that it may be difficult for employees to succeed in arguing that their dismissal was discriminatory when the employing organisation is following established rules and policies.”

The decision of the Employment Tribunal inMrs C Degnan v BP Services International Limited 3302969/2015 can be found here