United Kingdom

Office manager wins £11,000 after her boss waited until she gave birth and then sacked her

An office manager has won an £11,000 payout after her 'petulant' building firm boss waited until she gave birth and then sacked her. 

'Diligent and hard-working' Izabela Szachta repeatedly checked in to see how work was going while on maternity leave, only to discover her job was at risk while she was heavily pregnant.

Her boss Ben MacMillan, who outsourced her work, later told her: 'What would you do? Tell a pregnant woman she is losing her job or tell a woman on maternity leave?'

Mr MacMillan, 44, who runs West End building firm Argyll London, had not told Ms Szachta about his plans to use the outsourcing company permanently before she went on leave.

A tribunal judge criticised Mr MacMillan - who offered Ms Szachta a measly 12-hour part-time contract after she gave birth - for making the 'stereotypical assumption' that she would not want to return to full-time work.

A judge at the East London Tribunal Hearing Centre, pictured, criticised Ben MacMillan - who offered Izabela Szachta a measly 12-hour part-time contract after she gave birth - for making the 'stereotypical assumption' that she would not want to return to full-time work

Mr MacMillan, whose company builds homes and workspaces, assumed she'd be 'grateful' for the offer and 'petulantly' started blaming her for work issues when she refused to accept it.

Ms Szachta was sacked and following the ordeal, she suffered anxiety and was diagnosed with post-natal depression, resulting in her becoming 'withdrawn' from her family.

Now Ms Szachta has won £11,000 after suing Argyll London for pregnancy and sex discrimination.

The employment tribunal in East London, heard that Mr MacMillan found outsourcing firm Insight's offer 'highly persuasive' and was in talks with them in November 2018, three months before Ms Szachta went on maternity leave.

However, it heard Mr MacMillan 'did not discuss' the outsourcing company's permanent role with Ms Szachta before she went on maternity leave, which left her in the dark about her future redundancy.

Ms Szachta - who 'had a strong work ethic' - checked in while she was off to see how the business was going but Mr MacMillan, who by this point decided she was redundant, ignored her message.

Employment Judge Tim Russell said criticised Mr MacMillan for failing to Ms Szachta her job was at risk sooner.

'In other words, that she would not want to return to work full-time due to her childcare commitments and status as a mother.

'[The comment] was an inappropriate stereotypical assumption based upon sex, namely that a woman with a baby would want to work part-time.'

Judge Russell added: 'As we have found, Mr MacMillan began criticising Ms Szachta's performance only after she objected to the offer of a part-time job and challenged the decision to make her redundant.

'Diligent and hard-working' Izabela Szachta repeatedly checked in to see how work was going while on maternity leave, only to discover her job was at risk while she was heavily pregnant

'The fact that at this hearing Mr MacMillan again accepted that the problems with the bookkeeping function were not the fault of Ms Szachta, so much as the systemic flaws, leads the tribunal to conclude that the criticism of her performance was unreasonable.

'[The criticism] was resorted to as a means to justify the decision to move to [outsource firm] Insight.

'This, we consider, was borne of a degree of irritation and even petulance on the part of Mr MacMillan when Ms Szachta simply did not accept the offer which he thought she would be grateful for as she had a new child.'

It was heard Ms Szachta was not sufficiently financially qualified to handle bookkeeping but that this was a flaw in Mr MacMillan's business model.

During the handover period to the outsourcing firm, Ms Szachta accepted finding £83,000 in missing invoices, which Mr MacMillan later criticised her for.

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