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Bangor woman gets £25,000 payout in pregnancy case

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Media captionRuth Faulkner: “It’s not just about the money”

A County Down woman who took a sex discrimination case against her employer related to her pregnancy has been paid £25,000 in a settlement.

Ruth Faulkner, from Bangor, had worked at Intern Europe Ltd since June 2010 as a work placements officer.

During her maternity leave, Ms Faulkner had asked to work the same hours in a different pattern, but instead the company reduced her hours.

The firm said it had made some hard decisions in order to cut costs.

It did not accept liability and “no way selected the claimant because of her pregnancy, or issues related to it”.

The company sincerely apologised for causing upset to Ms Faulkner, but said this was not intentional.

‘Sidelined’

On the first day Ms Faulkner returned to work after her maternity leave, she was brought to a meeting where she was told her post was potentially at risk of redundancy.

She alleged she was told that the company wanted to discuss an option with her where she would choose to leave rather than go through a formal redundancy situation.

Ms Faulkner claimed she was informed that if she wanted to consider this option she could not return to her desk and had to leave the office right away.

“Before I told them of my pregnancy I felt I was a respected member of their staff and that my work was appreciated,” Ms Faulkner said.

“Afterwards, I felt isolated, excluded, sidelined and ignored. When I returned to work after the birth of my child, to be confronted with a proposal to terminate my employment, I was shocked and upset.”

Her case was assisted by the Equality Commission.

The commission’s Mary Kitson said it was still too common for women who tell their employers they are pregnant to then feel they are treated unfairly.

“All employers need to make sure that pregnant women and returning mothers have a supportive environment with flexible, family friendly policies and practices,” she said.

“That is what they are entitled to under the law. It also makes good business sense for employers themselves, enabling them to benefit from the skills and knowledge of experienced staff.”

The commission said that in the year 2017/18 it received 193 sex discrimination complaints linked to pregnancy.

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