Tribunal payment for woman sacked over time off when daughter in hospital and husband back from war

Members of the GMB outside the Hartlepool North Ambulance Station, Easington Road
Members of the GMB outside the Hartlepool North Ambulance Station, Easington Road

A working Doncaster mum has won a compensation payout from her bosses after she was sacked over time off work when her daughter was in hospital and her soldier husband was back from war on leave.

The GMB union has won an employment tribunal claim against One Call Insurance Services Ltd, based at Lakeside, Doncaster, on behalf of member Annie Van Heeswyk.

The union took Annie’s case to an employment tribunal claiming sex discrimination and unfair dismissal.

She was represented by regional legal officer Bill Innes.

Annie won her case and was awarded compensation.

Mr Innes said: “Annie’s problems began when she applied to her employer for parental leave so she could spend time with her baby daughter and her soldier husband during his leave following service in Afghanistan.

“Her Doncaster-based employer denied the leave, telling her that spending time together as a family didn’t qualify as parental leave.”

Shortly after her request she was given a notice for a disciplinary hearing for alleged ‘persistent absenteeism’ and ‘unsatisfactory standards or output of work’ yet she had an exemplary record and no warnings before this.

Annie was later dismissed without notice on the grounds of gross misconduct despite the fact her absenteeism was linked to the time when her daughter was in hospital.

“Management told her that they were unhappy with her explanation for her absenteeism as ‘children get ill all the time.’ She was also entitled to a pay rise of £2,000 per annum after two years of service, but hadn’t received it.

“GMB supported her successful employment tribunal claims against the company for direct and indirect sex discrimination, unreasonable refusal to allow parental leave, unfair and wrongful dismissal and unlawful deductions from wages.

“The tribunal described the company’s procedure as ‘cynical’ and its treatment of Annie ‘unsympathetic’ after her return from maternity leave. It found that the company was ‘scraping the barrel’ to find reasons for dismissing her.

“It is still shockingly familiar for women to face discrimination at work, and Annie’s case was a particularly bad example. The cost of taking a claim like this has been made prohibitive by tribunal fees for anyone who does not have the support of a trade union like GMB.”

Annie said: “It’s important that parents are aware of their rights, especially when returning from maternity leave. I’m really grateful to Bill Innes and the GMB team because without their support I wouldn’t be in the position I am today.”

One Call Insurance said in a statement: “We don’t comment on specific cases but are committed to equal opportunities and making sure that all our staff are treated with respect and in accordance with the law.”