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High flying marketing director wins claim after boss jokes about pregnancy weight gain

Makbool Javaid, Partner - Simons Muirhead & Burton

In the case of Shipp v Sprint, Sally-Anne Shipp was a £100,000-a-year marketing director who was fired on maternity leave after refusing to take a £20,000 cut to do the same job. Male colleagues had asked Sally-Anne Shipp whether the baby was planned, when she had stopped using contraception and suggested placing a bet on how many pounds she would put on, an employment tribunal heard.

Shipp found these comments offensive and humiliating but decided against making a formal complaint because she did not want her maternity leave to be marred by the issue and was wary about making complaints against senior colleagues when there had already been some allusion to the effects of her pregnancy on her career.

The company decided to restructure but ‘overlooked’ the fact Mrs Shipp was on leave and failed to inform her of ‘huge changes taking place’. She was not included on the new organisation chart and became “concerned that she was being disadvantaged by not physically being in the office”.

The tribunal heard she was offered a Director of Marketing role which was paid £20,000 less per year.

In contrast, one male colleague was demoted but retained his salary and three others were given bigger roles and their salaries were increased.

She was later told she was being laid off via an email ‘out of the blue’. Mrs Shipp raised a grievance in December 2019 but it was dismissed.

Ruling her dismissal unfair, the judge said: “Comments ­created a degrading environment. This was a serious case of maternity discrimination.”

She was awarded £30,000 in compensation for ‘injury to feelings’ due to maternity and sex discrimination and a further £5,000 she was owed for an unrelated breach of contract matter.

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