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Thompsons NI secures settlement for UNISON member following maternity leave

Together with UNISON, Thompsons NI has successfully helped the member to seek compensation for unlawful maternity-related detriment.

UNISON member, Emer Carr, was employed as a pharmacy support worker and sought to exercise her statutory and contractual right to return to work early from maternity leave in April 2018. However, Ms Carr wasn’t able to do so until 12 November 2018 as her employer, the Western Health and Social Care Trust, made no offer of a return to work until 28 October 2018. Rather than paying Ms Carr her full pay, as she argued that she was entitled to after her seeking to return to work early in April 2018, the Trust put her on ‘unpaid leave’.

Ms Carr argued that the Trust’s actions were unlawful. With the help of her trade union, UNISON, she initiated proceedings in the Industrial Tribunal. As a member of UNISON, Ms Carr was entitled to free legal representation in her tribunal case and this was provided by George Kilpatrick from the Employment Rights Unit of Thompsons NI, who acted on her behalf following the Trust delaying her right to return to work and withholding her pay. Claims for unlawful maternity related detriment, sex discrimination and unauthorised deduction from wages were lodged.

The case has now been settled with Ms Carr recovering more than £4,000 for lost remuneration and £3,000 as compensation for her injury to feelings.

Ms Carr said: “I’m delighted with the result of my case. If it were not for the help of UNISON and Thompsons NI, I would have been ignorant of my rights around maternity leave. I want to thank UNISON and Thompsons NI for the support they provided me and in particular, George who was a pleasure to deal with. I would have no hesitation in recommending Thompsons NI to others who have encountered difficulties in the workplace.”

Joe McCusker, full-time official with UNISON, commented: “I am happy that this case has been settled to Ms Carr’s satisfaction. This should send a message to the Western Trust and all employers that UNISON will not tolerate discrimination against any workers and will provide full support to our members in challenging discriminatory practices in the workplace.”

Understanding your rights around maternity leave

A woman who is pregnant and/or takes maternity leave must not be subjected to a detriment as a consequence and such action is unlawful as being contrary to the Employment Rights (NI) Order 1996. Also, if a woman is subjected to less favourable treatment on pregnancy grounds and/or on the ground that she exercised her rights to maternity leave, such treatment can amount to unlawful sex discrimination in breach of the Sex Discrimination (NI) Order 1976. Failing to pay someone properly as per their contract of employment is unlawful and will amount to a breach of contract and/or may amount to an ‘unauthorised deduction from wages’ contrary to the Employment Rights (NI) Order 1996. Claims for pregnancy/maternity related detriment, sex discrimination and unauthorised deduction from wages are brought in the Industrial Tribunal.

Advice from Thompsons NI

If you require advice on your rights at work, make contact with your local trade union representative who can, if necessary, seek advice from Thompsons NI – we are ranked by Chambers legal directory at Band 1 for employment and personal injury work. For more information about the work we do with trade unions, visit our trade unions page.