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taratill
taratill, Solicitor
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 6305
Experience:  15 years experience of advising on employment law matters
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Hello. My daughter had her first baby in June 2012 and took

Customer Question

Hello.

My daughter had her first baby in June 2012 and took a year's maternity leave starting in mid-May 2012. Her company pays an annual bonus, based on performance etc up to Jan 31st annually, and in March 2013 she received £4,500 despite being on maternity leave for 8 months of the year to Jan 31st. She returned to work on 1 June 2013, and has just received her bonus notification for the year to Jan 31st 2014, which is only £1,500. This is despite the company announcing that bonus payments were up 6% on the previous year.

The company undertakes 6-monthly appraisals which contribute to the bonus. She has consistently been a Grade 3 (she has worked for the company for 12 years), which is regarded as "good". Some years ago she scored a Grade 2 which is regarded as "Very good", and has never been lower. She missed one of the 2013 appraisals due to being on maternity leave, but at the second appraisal in December, she again scored "good", Grade 3. 70% of employees typically score a Grade 3.

She is pregnant with her second child. In January she realised that her hopefully temporary illness with the pregnancy would go away. It didn't. The doctor signed her off sick for 3 weeks, a stint of a week, then a stint of 2 weeks. The first was specifically recorded as "pregnancy related" but for some reason the second was not, though the symptoms were the same. The ailment is called "Baby Head" which means the expectant mother is unable to process information properly. It is well documented and accepted as a likely ailment in pregnancy. She basically is unable to cope with her demanding job as a Project Manager. Her previous adeptness at organising, prioritising, scheduling etc. has just gone out of the window due to the pregnancy. Her GP wanted to sign her off for the rest of the pregnancy, but my daughter refused, saying she wanted to give it a go, cos she was worried about the effects on her future career. So she has struggled into work for the past few weeks, and done the best she can. Which has not been good. She has had to relinquish the management of her current project to someone else, and is doing menial, though useful work in the meantime. The GP wrote her a note for work to say she suggested a phased return, but her manager clearly didn't understand what that meant and promptly bombarded her with a list of meetings and schedules that need re-considering, and with which she could not cope. This only served to add to her mental state of distress. She is normally a strong person, and would have made it clear to the manager that his approach was not acceptable.

When she received the notice that her bonus was only £1,500 she queried the reason. The manager said it was a standard rate for her level of achievement. But last year she was graded 3 and got £4,500 despite being absent for 7 months. And this year she was graded 3 and absent for only 5 months, and bonus rates had supposedly increased by 6%. He said he would look into it. He came back and told her she had been graded only a "low" grade 3, and that was the reason for the smaller payout. No mention has ever been made before of the bonus being dependent on how high or low you are within the grade, all grade 3's have had the same bonus, and why would a bonus of £4,500 last year, when she was grade 3, become only £1,500 this year for being a low grade 3. My daughter disputes the statement of being a "low grade 3". During her time at work she is often complimented on the speed of her decision-making, and the quality of those decisions, and of her ability to output far more work, far faster, than many of her colleagues. She is praised for her contributions at project meetings, her lucidity, and other things. So there is no reason for her to have scored this so-called "low" grade 3 that has reduced her bonus to 1/3 of the expected amount.

She can only suspect that it is because she has been off sick for 3 weeks in January, and is continuing to under-perform cos of her pregnancy-related illness. She is of half a mind to consider that rather than under-perform it would be to her benefit to not be there at all, and therefore her performance could not affect her anyway. She hopes to continue working for 4 months of the next bonus year, but if she under-performs this will affect her bonus next year too.

I thought employers could not discriminate in this way against pregnant employees. They are upsetting her confidence so much, they are making her situation worse. She now dreads going into work because she doesn't know how much more disappointment she is going to have to face.

She expects to return to work in June 2015 and become a high-flying employee. That is her aim, and that is her capability. She has an excellent and relevant degree and 12 years experience with the company. She is not a tin-pot clerk, but a professional in all respects. Can you please tell me if this is discrimination, and what we can do about it.

Margaret
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  taratill replied 2 years ago.

taratill :

Hello my name is Jenny and I am happy to help you today.

taratill :

Has the employer been able to give objective (work related) reasons for the lower grade this year that are non maternity related.

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