A new mother who was demoted from a production controller to part-time receptionist when she returned to work has won £15,000 in an out of court settlement after bringing a sex discrimination claim supported by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC).
Elizabeth Jones had worked for the Huntingdon-based TT Audio Plastics for more than seven years and had held the post of Production Controller for more than five years.
She alleged that her proposal that she work part-time on a short-term basis and do some work from home until she had finalised her childcare
Instead she was offered a part-time receptionist post on 40 per cent less hourly pay than in her previous job (£6 an hour instead of £10 an hour). She claimed her manager also assumed she would want fewer responsibilities than before and expressed surprise that she was interested in responsibility and status now.
Jones alleged that her manager's attitude towards her changed once she informed him of her pregnancy. After she complained about his aggressive and confrontational behaviour she claimed he rarely talked to her, although they had previously had a good working relationship.
She also claimed that inappropriate comments were made about her while she was pregnant, including being called 'a fat scrag end' and one colleague suggesting to another that he should have 'taken someone more attractive to shag' to a training course she was due to attend with him.
During the meeting to discuss her return to work, during which her proposal for changed working arrangements was rejected, she claimed she was also asked if she intended to have any more children.
The firm initially disputed her claim, but then settled with Ms Jones, agreed to provide her with a reference and also agreed to implement a comprehensive equal opportunities policy, to provide equal opportunities training for all staff.
Ms Jones said that she loved her job and had always given it 110 per cent.
“I fully intended to continue to do so after my maternity leave, but I wasn't given that opportunity,” she said. “I was shocked and disappointed by my employer's reaction to my pregnancy and the way in which my return to work was handled."
The EOC’s Julie Mellor added: "It is a tragedy when women returning to work after having a baby are prevented from making full use of their skills. It means they and their families lose out – women working part-time still earn an incredible 40% less per hour than men working full-time. It means their employer loses out on the years of experience they bring. And it means Britain's economy loses out on what these women have to offer."