Want to talk to an expert employment law solicitor?

You'll receive a callback from a specialist within an hour

In the case of Ms M Walworth v Scrivens Ltd: 1301685/2017 the Employment Tribunal held that Ms Walworth had been discriminated against by her employer when it failed to ensure parity of treatment for her whilst she was on maternity leave.

The facts in Walworth v Scrivens Ltd

Ms Walworth commenced employment with Scrivens Ltd (“Scrivens”), a chain of opticians, on 26 January 2009. It was later agreed between the parties that she would become a Trainee Dispensing Optician with effect from 13 September 2010, and in connection with this the parties agreed a “Training/Service Agreement” on 16 August 2010 in order for Ms Walworth to be trained as a Dispensing Optician to the standards required by the Association of British Dispensing Opticians.

The Training Agreement contained a term to the effect that, should Ms Walworth leave her employment after 15 December 2014 but before 14 December 2016 she would be due to repay £11,000 in terms of her training costs to Srivens, and if she left after 15 December 2016 but before 14 December 2017 then she would be due to repay £5,500 in terms of her training costs.

At the end of August 2015 Ms Walworth notified Scrivens that she was pregnant, with the estimated due date being April 2016.

On 11 September 2015 Ms Hibberd (HR Manager) wrote to Ms Walwroth acknowledging her pregnancy and stating her Training Agreement would be reviewed to take into account her period of maternity leave.

Ms Walworth subsequently notified Scrivens that she wished to commence maternity leave on 18 April 2016, and on 11 January 2016 Ms Hibberd wrote to Ms Walworth to set out some of the arrangements for her maternity leave – this included a stipulation by Scrivens that, as she was going on maternity leave, the training repayment period under her Training Agreement would be ‘paused’ and the appropriate remaining amount of this period (“the pause clause”).

On 9 February 2016 Ms Walwroth wrote to Scrivens to complain that she believed that she had been subjected to pregnancy and maternity discrimination, although she did not complain about the pause clause in that letter. A grievance process followed and Ms Walworth’s complaints of discrimination were not upheld. Ms Walworth then began maternity leave on 18 April 2016, with her daughter born shortly after this.

On 6 January 2017 Ms Walworth called Ms Hibberd to discuss her return to work. In this telephone conversation it was discussed (among other things) that Ms Walworth was struggling to make childcare arrangements for her daughter and whether Ms Walworth could take a sabbatical.

On 10 February 2017 Ms Hibberd wrote to Ms Walwroth to state that she understood that Ms Walworth was considering her options but she may not return to work from maternity leave. The letter also stated that she would be expected to give twelve weeks’ notice of termination if she did wish to resign and, further, that if she did resign she would have to repay £11,000 under the Training Agreement.

On 13 March 2017 Ms Walworth wrote to Scrivens to inform it that she was submitting her notice of termination of employment, effective immediately. The reason given for her resignation was that she believed that the pause period was discriminatory and that there was no mention of any pause period in the Training Agreement.

Scrivens withheld Ms Walworth’s outstanding holiday pay accrued to the termination date as a set-off against the £11,000 training repayment that it claimed that it was owed.

Ms Walworth subsequently submitted Employment Tribunal claims for pregnancy and maternity discrimination, constructive dismissal, and unlawful deduction from wages.

The decision of the Employment Tribunal in Walworth v Scrivens Ltd

The Employment Tribunal upheld Ms Walworth’s claims for pregnancy and maternity discrimination, constructive dismissal, and unlawful deduction from wages.

Pregnancy and maternity discrimination

The Employment Tribunal held that the implementation of the ‘pause period’ policy constituted unfavourable treatment which Ms Walworth was subjected to because she exercised her right to take period of ordinary or additional maternity leave, as this policy breached regulation 9 of the Maternity & Parental Leave Regulations 1999 (in that it required her (in comparison with someone who did not take maternity leave) to undertake additional service before being free of her obligation to repay her training fee).

Constructive dismissal

The Employment Tribunal held that the implementation of the ‘pause period policy’ constituted a (repudiatory) breach of the implied term of mutual trust and confidence, that Ms Walworth had resigned because of this breach, and that she had not delayed too long in resigning. The Tribunal therefore upheld the claim for constructive dismissal.

Unlawful deduction from wages

The Tribunal held that Ms Walworth had a legal entitlement to be paid holiday pay upon the termination of her employment but that she was not paid such.

The Tribunal ordered that a remedy hearing be held in due course.

Our solicitors’ view on Walworth v Scrivens Ltd

Chris Hadrill, a specialist employment solicitor at Redmans, commented on the case: “This case demonstrates that employers must ensure that the terms and conditions that are applied to employees on maternity leave do not treat them less favourably than employees who have not taken a period of maternity leave – a failure to ensure equal treatment may result, as with this case, in an Employment Tribunal claim.”

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).

Want to talk to an expert employment law solicitor?

You'll receive a callback from a specialist within an hour

Share →

Our awards

Request a callback

    Your first name (required)

    Your last name (required)

    Your email (required)

    Your telephone number (required)

    Brief details of your enquiry

    Testimonials

    4.81 Average

    314 Reviews

    Anonymous

    I'd highly recommend Redmans Solicitors. Mel was very helpful and assisted me throughout my case.

    Posted 1 day ago

    Anonymous

    Sacha was very thorough and very helpful, with great advice on when to act and when to wait on my case.

    Posted 4 days ago

    Anonymous

    I have been very pleased with the support I got from Redmans Solicitors on my case with my employer. Caroline has always helped me to put things in perspective and showed me different scenarios ultimately to help me taking the right decision. She was very professional and always available when I needed, and at the same time also emphatic which I found also really important to establish a strong relationship. Will definitely recommend!

    Posted 6 days ago

    Anonymous

    Prompt and efficient response to my enquiries. Excellent negotiating skills with my employer which considerably improved the terms of my settlement agreement.

    Posted 6 days ago

    Anonymous

    Very quick and professional service , Rana was very helpful

    Posted 1 week ago

    James G

    Very professional, knowledgeable and kept me informed at every stage of my case. I would highly recommend Redmans.

    Posted 1 week ago

    Pravina P

    Chris was really good and help solve my issues with current company. I would recommend him to anyone.

    Posted 2 weeks ago

    Paul L

    Sacha was extremely helpful in my matter. I would not hesitate you use Sacha or Redmonds again. Everyone was very helpful.

    Posted 2 weeks ago

    Monique N

    I had Mel Chin helping me with a settlement and she was very professional and reliable throughout my case. Mel provided me with a good understanding of what was happening and gave suggestions on routes I could take. My case was resolved and closed promptly although the opposing side were very difficult to deal with. A very big thank you to Mel and Chris.

    Posted 2 weeks ago

    Jackie C

    My first ever experience needing the services of a solicitor; cannot speak highly enough of Mel and Chris’s personable, reassuring and straight to the point advice in dealing with my settlement agreement. They put me at ease during an extremely stressful time. I am equally as happy with the outcome, as l am their professional services.

    Posted 3 weeks ago

    ""

    Really happy with the service. All very efficient. Mel rattled through things very fast, however was great whenever I needed to stop and ask a question! Would definitely return to Redmans if I ever needed Legal advice.

    Posted 3 weeks ago

    Peter F

    Very helpful and clear advice, would highly recommend.

    Posted 4 weeks ago

    William A

    Second time I have had to use Redmans. They did not disappoint. They are fast , efficient and friendly. I have already recommended them to friends and colleagues. I hope I dont have to use them again but if I have to , they are the solicitors for me.

    Posted 4 weeks ago

    Fleeta C

    Great service with tantastic communications. The solicitor responsible is extremely knowledgeable and was responsible for bringing a timely and desired solution.

    Posted 4 weeks ago

    Veronica M

    Extremely helpful, starting from a request for advice at very short notice, to dedicating time for me to understand and review all documents thoroughly.

    Posted 4 weeks ago

    Sophie R

    Very efficient and professional service. Chris was very empathetic, knowledgeable and personable. Highly recommended.

    Posted 1 month ago

    Melanie M

    Very happy with the detailed advice provided from Redmans. They also helped me to secure a higher settlement than originally offered by my employer and were extremely diligent. I first spoke with Chris at relatively short notice and then Sacha dealt with my case. Would definitely recommend and use again in the future if needed.

    Posted 1 month ago

    Anonymous

    Redmans helped me with a work related issue, which was resolved quickly and professionally. I would definitely recommend this company.

    Posted 1 month ago

    James F

    Great people, really friendly and professional helped with everything that I needed.

    Posted 1 month ago

    Anusha S

    My case was handled by Sacha who was very thorough and helped me to achieve a good outcome with my employer. Sacha was very personal, professional and helped me during quite a stressful time, so I am hugely grateful to her and to Redmans. This was my first time engaging with a law firm so I wasn't sure what to expect but I can definitely say that it was a good experience overall and I ended up better off due to having the help of an experienced and proactive solicitor on my side.

    Posted 1 month ago

    Diane P

    So grateful that I contacted Redmans to deal with my Redundancy Agreement. Everything from the initial call to the completion of the matter was professional, efficient and effective. I was listened to, had everything explained simply and kept informed of every step. I received super advice and the costs were very competitive. I would highly recommend them to anyone seeking similar help. First class service - thank you

    Posted 1 month ago