Sam (not her real name) had worked as the head of a department for a large construction firm for five years and took a period of maternity leave in June 2015, intending to take a year’s maternity leave and return in June 2016. In Sam’s absence one of her team members, Mark (not his real name), was appointed to provide maternity cover for her position.
In December 2015 Sam decided that she’d like to return to work early and emailed the Human Resources department at her employer to ask whether she could do so. There was a meeting with Human Resources in January 2016 and at this meeting an early return to work was discussed, as was the possibility of Sam returning to work on a flexible working pattern.
In early February 2016 Sam spoke to Anna (not her real name), a colleague of hers. Anna informed Sam that she had heard that Sam was returning to work but not as the head of her department. Sam found this a shock. The next day a member of the Human Resources team emailed Sam to inform her that she was being offered the chance to return to work but not as the head of the department, and was offered a new role in a new team. Sam emailed back to inform Human Resources that she didn’t believe the post she was being offered was suitable as it involved an effective demotion and a reduction in her responsibilities.
Sam then spoke to her line manager in mid-February 2016 in a telephone conversation. In this telephone conversation Sam was informed that her line manager would prefer Mark to undertake the position he had been covering from Sam on a permanent basis and confirmed that Sam would not be returning to her previous position as head of department. A meeting was then held between Sam and her line manager in which Sam was informed that she would not be returning to her position as head of department and that Mark would take over her job.
What we did
When Sam contacted the employment team in our Richmond office she was anxious and stressed. Chris Hadrill, a specialist employment solicitor at Redmans, handled Sam’s matter.
Chris explained to Sam that her employer’s actions constituted pregnancy and maternity discrimination and a breach of Regulation 18(3) of the Maternity and Paternity Leave Regulations 1999. He also informed Sam that she may have a potential claim for constructive dismissal (as well as automatic unfair dismissal) and that she should send a formal grievance letter to her employers to set out her complaints.
Chris helped Sam draft a formal grievance letter setting out her complaints and also drafted a ‘without prejudice’ letter to the company setting out what her potential claims against the organisation were and that Sam required the payment of her notice in lieu, a reference, and a tax-free £30,000 sum to settle her claims.
Sam’s employer agreed to settle her claims and pay her a sum in respect of her notice, a £30,000 tax-free ex-gratia payment, and provide prospective employers with an agreed reference in the future. Sam’s employer also agreed to cover the entirety of her legal fees and to make an agreed announcement as to why Sam had left the organisation.