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In the case of Sisk v Department for Work and Pensions ET/3323944/2016 the Employment Tribunal held that Mrs Sisk, the Claimant, had been discriminated against whilst on maternity leave and awarded her compensation of £13,200.

The facts in Sisk v Department for Work and Pensions

Mrs Sisk commenced employment with the Department for Work and Pensions (“DWP”) on 1 October 2014 as Surveillance and Tasking Manager. In August 2015 she began a period of maternity leave. During her period of maternity leave she was informed that upon her return from maternity leave she would be transferred into the role of Compliance Team Leader, a position which she had turned down when she had joined the DWP in 2014; this was in response to another female employee (who was also on maternity leave at the time) having her position removed from her and transferred to a third party. Mrs Sisk was unhappy with this and did not agree. She was also not happy that the DWP had failed to keep in touch with her whilst she was on maternity leave to provide her with information regarding promotional exercise details, recruitment exercises and vacancy information (in contravention of the DWP’s own policies). The manager who was responsible for Mrs Sisk while she was on maternity leave (a Mr Lumsden) had not at the relevant times received any training in maternity rights or pregnancy and maternity discrimination.

Mrs Sisk submitted a complaint on 1 April 2016 about her removal from the position of Surveillance and Tasking Manager and that she had not been kept informed of necessary information whilst she was on maternity leave. She sought a return to her post of Surveillance and Tasking Manager or, failing that, to be placed as a local Fraud Service Team leader at the DWP’s Harrow office. Her complaint was partially upheld, but not on the complaint regarding maternity discrimination (although the investigators accepted that during her period of maternity leave procedures had not been followed).

The decision of the Employment Tribunal in Sisk v Department for Work and Pensions

The Employment Tribunal held that Mrs Sisk had been subjected to the following detriments:

  • That her role filled by a third party whilst she was on maternity leave, and held that she had been subjected to this detriment for the reason she too additional maternity leave – the Tribunal claim to this conclusion as Mrs Sisk had been treated in a different manner to a male colleague who had his position held for him while he ‘acted up’ to a more senior position
  • That she was not kept informed of promotion information, conferences, and training opportunities

The Tribunal found that she had been subjected to unfavourable treatment because she had taken maternity leave. Mrs Sisk was not successful in her complaint of sex-related harassment.

The Employment Tribunal awarded Mrs Sisk £13,200 as compensation for injury to feelings and made a recommendation that the DWP’s managers be sent on training courses to teach them about the rights of employees while they are on maternity leave

Our solicitors’ view on Sisk v Department for Work and Pensions

Chris Hadrill, a specialist employment solicitor at Redmans, commented on the case: “This case shows that employers must make sure that their management teams are trained in how to deal with employees who are on, or who are intending to take, periods of maternity leave – a failure to train managers in such rights could lead, as in this case, to a successful claim for discrimination.”

The judgment of the Employment Tribunal can be found here

About

Redmans Employment Team deal with employment matters for both employers and employees, including drafting employment contracts and policies, advising employers and employees on compromise agreements, handling day-to-day HR issues, advising on restructures, and handling Employment Tribunal cases for both employers and employees Call 020 3397 3603 to speak to one of the members of our employment team or email us on enquiries@redmans.co.uk. Redmans have offices in Richmond, Chiswick, Hammersmith, Fulham, Kingston, Wimbledon, Ealing, Kings Cross and Marylebone (meetings strictly by appointment only).

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