A marketing executive who said that her boss joked about placing bets on how much weight she would gain while she was pregnant has been awarded £30,000 in damages.
Sally-Anne Shipp told a tribunal that she had been questioned by male colleagues at the delivery company CitySprint over whether her baby had been planned and whether she had stopped using contraception.
Shipp said that she was threatened with redundancy while she was on maternity leave and was subsequently sacked because she refused to do the same job under a lesser title for a £20,000 pay cut.
An employment judge has now ruled that Shipp’s dismissal was unfair and awarded her £30,000 in compensation for maternity and sex discrimination. The court was told that male colleagues at the London business who changed roles did not suffer similar pay cuts.
At the hearing in central London it emerged that in 2019 Shipp told several colleagues that she was pregnant and that Craig Eddy, the company’s operations director, asked her when she had stopped taking contraception.
Eddy was also said to have asked how Shipp thought her pregnancy would “affect her long-term career prospects”.
During an executive team meeting several months later the same colleague told her: “When you have to leave that little one at nursery, you won’t want to come back.”
The tribunal was told that two other members of the executive team — Paul Gisbourne, who was then the company’s divisional chief executive, and Darren Taylor — asked whether her pregnancy had been planned.
Shipp also claimed that Gisbourne said they should “put a wager on how much weight she would put on during her pregnancy”. He denied making the remark.
Shipp told the tribunal that the alleged comments were offensive and humiliating. She said in evidence that she had told Rosie Bailey, the company’s commercial director, that she was “upset and frustrated” and that she had complained to Georgina Kilcoyne, the head of human resources, before going on maternity leave.
All of the male employees — except Gisbourne — acknowledged making the comments. Gisbourne has since left CitySprint and did not give evidence at the tribunal.
Shipp had been scheduled to return from maternity leave in March last year but by the end of July 2019 she was the only remaining member of the group executive team after a round of redundancies and resignations.
The company decided to restructure, but the tribunal was told that nobody contacted Shipp to tell her of the changes until she was informed by email that she was redundant.
Finding in favour of Shipp, Judge Harjit Grewal said that West had “overlooked the fact that [the claimant] was on maternity leave at the time and no one at [CitySprint] had contacted her . . . to discuss with her the huge changes that were taking place”.
Shipp told the tribunal: “Receiving an email like this out of the blue whilst on maternity leave is not an acceptable way of dealing with a situation such as this.”
Referring to the comments that had been made by Shipp’s male colleagues, the judge said that they had been “unwanted and they had the effect of creating a humiliating and degrading environment”.
Regarding the redundancy, the judge added that “the only explanation for [Shipp] . . . being totally ignored and written out of the organisation is the fact that she was on maternity leave”.
Grewal concluded: “There cannot be anything worse for a woman on maternity leave to find out she has lost her job because she was on maternity leave and then to have to spend her maternity leave fighting to get her job back.” [J4MB: Really? There cannot be anything worse?]
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