Mrs Michelle Stone, a 43-year-old general manger from Gloucestershire, has been awarded £18,000 in compensation, after an Employment Tribunal in Somerset found she had been subject to sustained discrimination during her maternity leave.
The Daily Telegraph reports that Mrs Stone, who had worked for Ramsay Health Care UK for 15 years, became pregnant in 2009. She gave birth by caesarean section and was suffering a painful aftermath, when she started receiving work e-mails and phone calls.
The communications started two days after Mrs Stone gave birth, and continued for four weeks. They concerned a complex restructuring programme by her employers, and originated from the person designated as Mrs Stone’s maternity cover.
The Tribunal panel were told that after Mrs Stone stopped checking her email, because her baby became seriously ill, her temporary replacement made a formal complaint to the company, saying the new mother was being “unsupportive”.
However, Mrs Stone was not given the full details of the written complaint against her, and this made her feel anxious about her job. Six months after the complaint was lodged, it was dismissed by the company.
Furthermore, Mrs Stone gave evidence that a colleague revealed company management had “gone ballistic’ when informed she would be taking her full entitlement of 12 months’ maternity leave. She said another manager had taken only two months’ leave after having a baby, fearing she would be labelled “unprofessional”.
Mrs Stone followed the company grievance procedure and complained about her treatment while on maternity leave, but this was dismissed and she was denied an appeal. She then resigned her post.
The panel ruled that the timing of the first e-mail to Mrs Stone was “extraordinary,” and criticised management for not taking the precaution of ensuring Mrs Stone was comfortable with being contacted in this manner while on maternity leave.
Additionally, Ramsay Health Care UK were ordered to review their HR policy on maternity leave, and provide staff training on their legal obligations regarding the protected periods for pregnant women and women on maternity leave.