Woman awarded £9,000 in sex discrimination settlement

North’s Equality Commission says maternity cases most common cause of complaints

 Aine Magorrian, who was made redundant while on maternity leave and has settled a discrimination case for £9,000.  Photograph: Equality Commission for Northern Ireland/PA Wire

Aine Magorrian, who was made redundant while on maternity leave and has settled a discrimination case for £9,000. Photograph: Equality Commission for Northern Ireland/PA Wire

 

A Co Down woman who lost her job while on maternity leave has been awarded £9,000 in a sex discrimination case.

SALIIS Ltd, a Northern Ireland renewable energy firm, agreed to pay the settlement to Aine Magorrian from Castlewellan before the case went to tribunal hearing, the North’s Equality Commission reported on Thursday.

Supported by the commission, Ms Magorrian took an unlawful discrimination case on grounds of pregnancy and unfair dismissal. She joined SALIIS in early 2013 where she was operations and maintenance manager. She lost her job in October last year.

Ms Magorrian said she was “troubled” when, following the birth of her first daughter, her role was changed in her absence. She claimed that on being assured by her employer that her new role was more secure, she did not at that time pursue a complaint.

When she became pregnant again she alleged that two new workers were recruited, during sickness absence related to her pregnancy, to carry out work she had been doing. On her return, she was moved to other duties. Later, during her maternity leave, Ms Magorrian was informed that she was being made redundant.

Downturn

She was told she lost her post because of a loss of contracts and a downturn in work. She believed, however, she was selected for redundancy because of her pregnancy and maternity leave. She appealed the decision, but the company confirmed the redundancy.

“I had always worked hard for the company and believe I made a very positive contribution to its work. Finding out that I was to be made redundant five months into my maternity leave was devastating for me and my family,” said Ms Magorrian.

“I have moved on to another job, and am glad this episode is over. I hope that by telling people about this case other women can avoid finding themselves in the same situation,” she added.

Mary Kitson, the commission’s senior legal officer, said issues around pregnancy and maternity in the workplace were the most common reason for complaints of sex discrimination made to the commission.

“The laws protecting women from this kind of discrimination were introduced so that they can remain in the workforce and not be disadvantaged because of pregnancy or family responsibilities,” she said.

Major issue

“Despite the law this is still a major issue - half of the women who responded to our investigation last year into the treatment of pregnant workers and mothers at work said that they felt their career opportunities had been damaged by their pregnancy or maternity leave,” added Ms Kitson.

SALIIS, in settling the case, expressed regret for any upset to Ms Magorrian. It affirmed its commitment to the principles of equality of opportunity and to ensuring that its policies, practices and procedures conform in all aspects with the sex discrimination legislation.

It also undertook to meet with the Equality Commission to review its redundancy, maternity and equal opportunities policies and to consider the commission’s recommendations for any amendments and the training of staff.