Women can still suffer discrimination on the grounds of maternity long after they have returned to work from maternity leave, as a recent employment tribunal case has found. A female employee was awarded a six figure sum after an Employment Judge determined that she had been treated unfavourably because she had taken time off to have a child. The employee, an architect who had helped design a prestigious London restaurant, received £250,000 in compensation.

The starker message to take away from this case is that employers can find themselves in trouble when they make comments in relation to motherhood with genuinely positive intentions. The line between what is acceptable conversation and what is not has been further blurred by this judgment, making it even more difficult for employers to understand the ‘right’ way to behave. In this particular instance, the company’s founder had asked the claimant whether she wanted to be a “supermum”, making reference, he says, to the extensive travelling involved in the job. The tribunal found that the comment was reasonably viewed as a detriment and constituted unfavourable treatment.

Maternity is one of the protected characteristics named in the Equality Act 2010, which seeks to provide protection to individuals from recruitment stage through to after termination of employment. Compensation for acts of discrimination has no upper limit and will take into consideration the injury to the claimant’s feelings.  There are 8 other protected characteristics, including race, disability and age.

For further clarification on this issue then please contact the Peninsula Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.