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Mother Suffered Discrimination after Part-Time Return From Maternity Leave

Many mothers resume work on a part-time basis after having children and employers must be very cautious to ensure that they are not subjected to any unfair detriment. In one case, a woman won the right to substantial compensation after her return to the office was blighted by less favourable treatment.

On returning from maternity leave, the software engineer had been made redundant after her manager reneged on an agreement that she would be permitted to leave at 5:00pm each day to pick up her child from nursery. A new role within the company that she could have applied for as an alternative to redundancy was subject to a requirement that she remain at work after 5:00pm.

After she launched proceedings, an Employment Tribunal (ET) found that she had suffered indirect sex discrimination, harassment and less favourable treatment as a part-time worker. Although the redundancy process was not a sham, the ET also ruled that her dismissal was unfair, having been tainted by discrimination.

In rejecting the company’s appeal against those findings, the Employment Appeal Tribunal could detect no flaw in the ET’s approach. The company’s challenge to a finding of direct sex discrimination – which related to an inappropriate comment allegedly made by a manager on hearing of the woman’s pregnancy – was, however, upheld. The reasoning in support of that finding was deficient and the issue was sent back to the same ET for reconsideration.