Lawyer claims discrimination after redundancy while on maternity leave

An employment tribunal is considering the case of a female lawyer who was made redundant from her £100,000-a-year job when she asked to extend her six-month maternity leave due to suffering complications giving birth. 

Ms Tan, aged 40, needed two operations to repair damage to organs suffered during a Caesarean section. She has claimed she was made redundant when she told bosses she needed to take more time off to recover from hospital treatment. She said: “I was made redundant because I had had a baby, taken maternity leave and suffered illness as a result of the birth.” 

The Malaysian-born lawyer gave birth on May 5, 2011, and both mother and child needed continued hospital treatment due to birth complications. Ms Tan said she hoped to return after six months but was called to a meeting on November 3, 2011, and told she faced redundancy. 

While on maternity leave she had discussed her return with her boss, Gary Moss, and other senior staff, but had no indication that there were any problems until she told them about her surgical complications. She said: “Gary said it was important that I should concentrate on getting well and, as and when I was ready, I would be welcomed back to the department and I was a valued member of the team.” However, Mr Moss left the company while she was away. 

Ms Tan was formally dismissed on redundancy grounds on November 29 2012 after a lengthy appeals process. She is now suing the firm for unfair dismissal, pregnancy, maternity and sex discrimination, age discrimination and victimisation. 

The law firm involved, McDermott Will & Emery has strongly denied the allegations, claiming she was made redundant because there was not enough work. The firm also said it had already provisionally earmarked Ms Tan’s job for redundancy but “the decision was made not to raise her provisional redundancy with her while she was suffering the significant ill effects of the birth”. 

They deny “that there was any link between the claimant’s provisional selection and her maternity leave or related illness.” 

The tribunal continues. If you feel you have been discriminated against due to pregnancy or maternity leave, please contact Ashley Hunt, Carrie-Ann Randall or Vaishali Thakerar at Lawson-West on 0116 212 1000.

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