Home | News | Director awarded £30,000 after role downgraded during maternity

Director awarded £30,000 after role downgraded during maternity

October 20th 2021

A marketing director was discriminated against when she was dismissed for refusing to accept a reduced role and a £20,000 pay cut while she was on maternity leave.

Joanne Stronach Head of Employment and HR reports on this recent case.

The case involved Mrs S Shipp, who had worked at City Sprint UK for 10 years from 2010-2020.

She became pregnant in 2019 and was asked by the director of operations when she had stopped taking contraception and whether she had considered how her pregnancy might affect her career.

She was the only woman in an otherwise all-male executive team. During the meeting the chief executive suggested that colleagues should place a wager on how much her weight might increase during her pregnancy.

Shipp spoke to head of HR Ms Kilcoyne about the incident before she went on maternity leave.

During her leave the company underwent a restructure, and several executives were dismissed for the unrelated reason of cost-cutting.

When new chief executive, Mr West, was appointed during the restructure it became clear he had no intention of including Shipp in his vision for the company’s future.

Kilcoyne told Shipp she was likely to be made redundant and she noticed she had been removed from the marketing team’s email distribution list and had not been given a role on West’s new organisational chart.

West later told Shipp he didn’t know she was a part of the company and that she should ask Kilcoyne why her role was no longer available.

Kilcoyne offered Shipp the role of Director of Marketing, a step down from Marketing Director, and with a £20,000 cut in salary. 

However, no such role existed in the company and evidence suggested that Kilcoyne had copied and pasted the job description from various websites to create a fake generic role.

Shipp also found that her male colleagues who had been kept on had not had any reduction in their salaries.

She raised a formal grievance, saying it was ’very convenient’ that the only person on the team to receive a pay cut was the one who was on maternity leave.

When the grievance was dismissed, she appealed but the original decision was upheld.

Shipp was later dismissed as her role was redundant.

She brought a claim against City Sprint.

The Employment Tribunal heard that emails exchanged between Kilcoyne and the grievance manager eight weeks after Shipp’s dismissal said that the ‘crisis was over’ and that the company could now appoint a new candidate into the role vacated by Shipp.

They agreed that the new candidate would be promoted to the board after a delay of six months to avoid potential constructive dismissal claims from Shipp.

The tribunal found in Shipp’s favour. It said it was clear that West had designed the new role to be so unsatisfactory that Shipp would refuse the offer and that the redundancy consultation was nothing more than a ’sham’.

Shipp had been treated unfavourably because she had been on maternity leave and was awarded £30,000 compensation for unfair dismissal, maternity discrimination, sex discrimination, injury to feelings, and breach of contract. 

For more information about any aspect of employment law please contact Joanne on 01228 516666 or click here to send her an email.

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