An employment tribunal has ruled that failure to inform an employee about the ending of a colleague’s contract does not result in maternity discrimination.
The decision comes from the case Smith-Twigger v Abbey Protection Group, where the claimant had worked full-time but from April 2011 arranged, because of her childcare responsibilities, to work four days a week from Monday to Thursday, although her formal contract remained a full-time one.
Another employee was recruited to work just on Fridays, on a fixed-term contract due to expire in April 2012, although there was no formal job share.
The claimant’s flexible-working arrangements had been agreed for a period of a year, after which she would revert to full-time employment.
However, she took a further period of maternity leave from October 2011, during which the colleague who worked on Fridays was dismissed when her fixed-term contract ended in April 2012.
An issue arose, when the employee on maternity leave made some informal approaches to her line manager, seeking further flexible working arrangements on her return.
This did not lead to a satisfactory conclusion for her so she made a formal request under the statutory rules, which applied at the time to flexible-working requests. The request was rejected and the claimant did not appeal against the decision.
The claimant later resigned in September 2012 and brought tribunal claims, including one that the employer had treated her unfavourably, because of her maternity leave, by not informing her that her colleague had left employment and not consulting with her in relation to the end of her own fixed period of flexible working.
The tribunal rejected the maternity discrimination claim and the Employment Appeals Tribunal upheld this decision.
Elizabeth Slattery, partner at law firm Hogan Lovells, said: “The key point was that there was no formal job share. There is no obligation on an employer to discuss with one employee the termination of the contract of another, particularly where there is no formal link between them.
“The employer was not obliged to inform the claimant that her colleague’s contract had ended. Nor was there any requirement for the employer to review or consult with the claimant about the ending of her own fixed-term flexible working. The claimant had a right to request further flexible working, which she could have exercised, but the onus was on her, not the employer, to initiate this.”