A woman who received a £50,000 payout after being selected for redundancy following her maternity leave hopes her case will mean others do not face the same trouble.
Ruth Parks was speaking after settling a claim for sex discrimination which she had brought after being made redundant from her post as a finance manager with the Noonan Services Group Ltd.
The Tandragee woman had worked for a company which was taken over by Noonan Services in 2009, and the Equality Commission – which assisted her in bringing the case – said her duties meant doing accounting work covering both Northern Ireland and the Republic for Noonan (a firm which describes itself as a “provider of strategically outsourced services”).
The Equality Commission said that in preparation for her maternity leave in 2013, her duties were re-allocated to others and she was “reassured that she would not be made redundant, and that her job was safe”.
It added that when Ms Parks returned she found that new accountants had been appointed and that she had a “minimal list of duties”, among other things.
It said she was selected for redundancy, and was offered an alternative position which she did not find acceptable.
In a statement, she said: “I felt I had to take action, not just for my own situation, but so that the same thing doesn’t happen to somebody else.”
Dr Evelyn Collins, CEO of the Equality Commission, said around a quarter of the complaints the commission receives each year are about sex discrimination, with the highest proportion of those being about maternity.
It said it intends to issue a report about the treatment of pregnant workers this year.
The commission added that the firm (which has won a number of business awards) has affirmed its commitment to equality of opportunity in employment.
A spokesman for Noonan Services said the firm “deeply regrets” her experiences.
The settlement with the firm (struck around autumn 2015, but only publicised on Wednesday) does not make reference to liability.
A company spokesman said: “While it disputes some of the details surrounding Ms Parks’s departure, it has reviewed its policies to ensure that all employees continue to be offered as much encouragement and support to further their careers with the group as possible.
“The group says it is happy to continue to engage with the Equality Commission and awaits its recommendations.”