Catherine McClennan was employed by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) in a managerial role. The TUC represents 54 British trade unions and campaigns for better workplace rights. Before she went on maternity leave in early 2012 she says her career was on an upward trajectory. However, when she returned to work following the birth of her child she found that many of her responsibilities had been allocated to colleagues. Her position was then removed and she was obliged to compete for an available job against two other colleagues. She took redundancy and brought a claim for maternity discrimination against the TUC.
Mrs McClennan said, “I felt I was forced out. Employees should support mothers who come back from maternity leave but I was sidelined and they tried to cover this up. The TUC should be an exemplary employer but that couldn’t be further from the truth in my case”.
The Employment Tribunal in Liverpool ruled in Mrs McClennan’s favour and ordered the TUC to pay an undisclosed sum of compensation.
Under the Equality Act 2010 it is unlawful for an employer to:
- discriminate by treating a job applicant or employee unfavourably during the period from the beginning of pregnancy to the end of maternity leave because of her pregnancy or because of an illness she has suffered as a result of her pregnancy or
discriminate by treating an employee unfavourably because she is on compulsory maternity leave or because she is exercising or seeking to exercise or has exercised or sought to exercise the right to ordinary or additional maternity leave.
Employees on maternity leave must be treated more favourably than other employees in a redundancy exercise. They must be given first refusal on any suitable alternative vacancies rather than having to go through a competitive selection process. This is a rare example of lawful positive discrimination. If an employer does not comply the employee will have a claim for automatically unfair dismissal under s.99 of the Employment Rights Act 1996.
If you consider that you have been treated unfavourably by your employer during your pregnancy or maternity leave, please contact us in the strictest confidence for advice on your situation.