Sacked pregnant worker wins £17k compensation
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The Liz Earle Beauty Company may be one of the most recognisable and renowned in the world of aesthetics, but an employment tribunal has found the company were at fault when they dismissed a pregnant employee.
The employee in question, Helen Larkin from Southampton, had worked for the prestigious company for five years in total and was working as a digital channel marketing manager when she received two weeks’ notice of her impending redundancy.
Upon receiving this notice, Larkin chose to apply for two other advertised job roles within the same company.
Despite her years of service and experience with the Liz Earle Beauty Company, and the fact that both roles were similar to the job she had already been performing within the company, Larkin was not even offered an interview for either position and was ultimately dismissed from her employment with the company, which is based in Ryde.
Larkin decided to raise the matter with an employment tribunal, choosing to represent herself at the hearing. Larkin argued that the only reason she had not been offered interviews for the other job roles was due to the fact that she was eight months pregnant with her daughter at the time she made the applications. Due to her pregnancy, Larkin would soon be entitled to take maternity leave from Liz Earle - which, according to law, can last for up to 52 weeks for women living in the UK.
Larkin’s case, however, went further still, focusing beyond the new job roles and on the original redundancy itself. Larkin stated that she believed her redundancy had been significantly accelerated by the company, solely due to the fact that she was pregnant and that when on maternity leave, redundancy would be far more complex due to rights that protect soon-to-be and new mothers. Such behaviour is illegal under employment law, which protects the right of women against decisions made by a company regarding their employment that are influenced by the employee’s pregnancy.
The Liz Earle Beauty Company, which was originally founded in 1995 and now operates under the Walgreens Boots Alliance umbrella, disagreed with Larkin’s statements at the tribunal. At the hearing, the company argued that Larkin’s pregnancy - and her impending maternity leave, along with the legal protections it offered - was not a factor in their decision to make her redundant. The company went on to state that three other job roles had been affected by a “restructuring” process in addition to Larkin’s position, rather than her being targeted specifically due to her pregnancy. Despite this defense, the company did admit that they “fell short of [their] standards in some areas”, which the company “sincerely regret”.
Although Larkin was originally dismissed from her employment in June 2018, it wasn’t until January 2020 that the result of the case was announced. The Southampton Tribunal found in Larkin’s favour, and ordered that Liz Earle pay £17,303 in compensation to Larkin.
Invited to discuss her experience with the BBC’s ‘Victoria Derbyshire’ programme, Larkin said: “I wanted to show you can stand up to people and for yourself. It happens to so many women in so many companies.”
Commenting on the case, Gwyn Edwards, a specialist employment lawyer with Neathouse Partners said "this case goes to show why employers need to treat redundancy scenarios involving pregnant employees with great care. Pregnant employees qualify for special treatment during their maternity leave and where there is a suitable available vacancy, the employee is entitled to be offered the vacancy. Mistakes made during a redundancy process can be extremely costly and can result in bad publicity for the organisation”.
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About the author
James is on the Business Development & Account Management team at Neathouse Partners and regularly posts articles surrounding issues in HR & Employment Law, including case law & legislation updates. If you have a particular issue you would like addressed, feel free to drop James an email, and he will be happy to offer his assistance.
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