Redundancy and Maternity Leave

Sefton Borough Council v Wainwright

Ms Wainwright was on maternity leave when her job was made redundant. A new role was created and allocated to her colleague. She claimed automatically unfair dismissal, based on the requirement in the Maternity and Parental Leave Regulations for employees on maternity leave to be offered a suitable available vacancy where there is a redundancy situation.

She won her unfair dismissal claim. And a useful point emerged which is that it’s not necessarily discriminatory for an employer to fail to offer someone like Ms Wainwright the alternative position. Although she had been treated unfavourably, it wasn’t necessarily because of her pregnancy or maternity leave.

So while it is automatically unfair to fail to offer a suitable available vacancy to a woman on maternity leave in a redundancy situation, it shouldn’t be assumed to also be discriminatory. This is significant in the context of compensation; unfair dismissal is capped, but there is no limit on the amount that can be awarded in discrimination cases.

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