Stone v Ramsay Health Care UK Operations Ltd
Date added: 13 June 2012
pregnancy discrimination | maternity leave |
This is a rare example, along with Crisp v Iceland Foods Ltd ET/1604478/11
& ET/1600000/12, of an employment tribunal making wide-ranging
recommendations to an employer, in this case suggesting that it provide training
for its managers and HR team on maternity rights.
Tribunals can recommend that employers take specific steps
to rectify the problems in the workplace that led to unfair treatment of
the claimant, particularly if a culture of tolerating discriminatory
behaviour has built up.
An employee on maternity leave can agree with her employer
to work for up to 10 days during her statutory maternity leave period
without bringing the period of maternity leave to an end. There is no
requirement on an employee to do keeping-in-touch days.
It is discriminatory and a criminal offence for an employer
to permit or require a woman to work for a period of two weeks commencing
on the date of childbirth. The period is four weeks for factory
Mrs Stone was a general manager at Winfield Hospital in
Tewkesbury. Her employer owns 23 hospitals and has an annual turnover of
about £350 million. The tribunal found that the view within this
organisation was that it is "unprofessional for senior managers to take more
than ordinary maternity leave". The tribunal heard evidence that Ms
Terblanche, the interim general manager and the claimant's maternity cover, had
expressed a view that it is "ridiculous for a woman to take 12 months' maternity
leave". The tribunal also heard from Mrs Stone that a colleague told her
that Mrs White, the claimant's line manager, had "gone ballistic" when the
claimant had taken additional maternity leave.
The tribunal noted that, although the company's equal
opportunities policy purported to protect employees on the grounds of nine
protected characteristics, "pregnancy and maternity" was not one of
Mrs Stone brought claims in the employment tribunal, including a
claim for pregnancy and maternity discrimination under s.18 of the Equality Act
2010. Her claims related to events that occurred from when she went on
maternity leave until her resignation. The employment tribunal, which was
particularly unimpressed that Ms Terblanche (who still worked for the employer
at the time of the hearing) had not given evidence for the employer, generally
preferred Mrs Stone's evidence. The tribunal's findings included the
- In September 2009, Mrs Stone informed Mrs White, her line manager, that
she was pregnant. Mrs Stone was due to go on maternity leave on 20
February 2010, but illness meant that she commenced her maternity leave on 5
- Mrs Stone did not manage to speak to Mrs White on her last day before her
maternity leave. Mrs White, who did not return a call from the claimant,
failed to agree arrangements to keep in touch during maternity leave. The
tribunal found this to be "symptomatic of...a very haphazard and lackadaisical
approach" to making arrangements for the claimant's maternity leave.
- Mrs Stone gave birth by caesarean on 8 February. On 10 February, Ms
Terblanche emailed Mrs Stone, who was still in hospital and taking strong
painkillers, to ask her for her views on some work-related issues.
- While Mrs Stone had indicated to Ms Terblanche that she would like to be
copied in on relevant work emails, the claimant had not at any point said that
she would provide support for Ms Terblanche.
- Mrs Stone, who read the email on her Blackberry, did not respond
immediately. However, by 15 February, her "conscience got the better of
her" and she responded to what the tribunal described as a "relatively
- Mrs White's curt response to Mrs Stone's reply on 15 February led the
claimant to believe that her input was not appreciated. Mrs Stone was
surprised not to be thanked for going out of her way to respond so soon after
- Ms Terblanche continued to email Mrs Stone for advice. While the
claimant initially did her best to respond, she stopped checking her work
emails from mid-March to concentrate on caring for her child.
- In May 2010, Ms Terblanche raised a formal grievance with Mrs White about
Mrs Stone. Ms Terblanche's complaint was that Mrs Stone had been
"aggressive" towards her and critical of the employer when she visited the
hospital with her baby in March. The tribunal believed that Ms Terblanche
blamed the claimant for "not giving her the support that she
demanded". Mrs White did not inform Mrs Stone at this stage about the
- In May 2010, Ms Terblanche secured a move to another of the company's
hospitals. Neither Ms Terblanche nor Mrs White informed the claimant of
this development, something that the tribunal felt would have been the "normal
and courteous" thing to do.
- In late May 2010, Mrs Stone indicated her wish to take additional
maternity leave. When the issue of keeping-in-touch days arose, Mrs White
suggested that, rather than attend Winfield Hospital, the claimant should
attend regional meetings in London. Mrs White also suggested that she
could meet Mrs Stone for an off-site keeping-in-touch day. The tribunal
noted that Mrs White was clearly trying to prevent the claimant from going to
Winfield Hospital, to avoid a confrontation with Ms Terblanche. The
claimant, who was breastfeeding by this stage, declined because of the
four-hour round trip that this would involve. The tribunal found Mrs
White's suggestion to be typical of her "failure to appreciate the
responsibilities of a mother to a newborn baby and the responsibilities of an
employer to such a person during her maternity leave".
- By this stage, Mrs Stone had become concerned at her treatment and feared
for her job. She contacted the HR department, which acknowledged that the
suggestion of an off-site keeping-in-touch day "seemed a little
strange". However, the HR department failed to realise that Mrs White's
suggestion was contrary to the employer's policy on keeping in touch during
- In mid-July, Mrs White informed Mrs Stone that a complaint had been raised
against her, although it was a further six days before the claimant was given
details of the complaint. This was some six weeks after Ms Terblanche had
raised the grievance.
- In mid-August, Mrs Stone wrote a letter complaining of her treatment and
querying why she had not been included in a pay review that had taken
place. Although the claimant had an "uncomfortable" meeting with Mrs
White at the end of September, no further action was taken and a promised
investigation did not materialise.
- Mrs Stone returned to work in January 2011. She determined to resolve
the grievance against her. Mrs White's response to her queries was that
the complaint was "nothing more than hearsay" and that the matter should be
dropped. The tribunal concluded that, in keeping with her "ineffectual
management style", Mrs White had simply decided that it was "too complicated"
to investigate a grievance that Ms Terblanche was no longer keen to
- In March, Mrs Stone raised a grievance that set out the history of her
treatment. Mrs Watts, the company's CEO, conducted an investigation, but
failed to interview the claimant. Mrs Stone's grievance was rejected and
she was told that an appeal against this decision would not be
- Mrs Stone resigned at the end of April 2011.
The employment tribunal held that Mrs Stone had provided a wealth
of evidence that she had been unfavourably treated because of her pregnancy and
maternity leave. The employer had failed to provide an adequate explanation
for Mrs Stone's treatment. The tribunal was particularly critical of:
- a worrying lack of understanding at senior level of the employer's
- the exclusion of pregnancy and maternity as a protected characteristic
from the employer's equal opportunities policy;
- the failure to recognise, even at the tribunal, the significance of the
employer's failings towards Mrs Stone;
- Mrs White's ignorance of the employer's keeping-in-touch policy; and
- the HR department's relaxed approach to Mrs White's breach of the
maternity policy on keeping in touch during maternity leave.
The employment tribunal felt that many of the problems that arose
could have been avoided if Mrs White had taken a more conscientious approach to
discussing keeping-in-touch arrangements before Mrs Stone went on maternity
leave. The tribunal was shocked by the management's "total blind spot" in
relation to the "glaringly obvious reality" that it is entirely inappropriate
(and indeed a criminal offence) to ask an employee to work just two days after
she has given birth.
Unusually, the employment tribunal exercised its power under
s.124(3)(b) of the Equality Act 2010 to issue recommendations relating to the
employer's whole workforce. The employment tribunal recommended that the
- appoint external consultants within six months to implement a programme of
training for all managers and the HR team on its existing maternity policies
and legal obligations during the "protected period" of maternity leave under
the Equality Act 2010, with the training to be completed within a 12-month
- redraft its equal opportunities policy to include pregnancy and maternity
as a protected characteristic.
The employment tribunal also awarded Mrs Stone, who had not lost
any earnings because she had found another job, £18,000 for injury to