A woman who was made redundant while on maternity leave has settled a discrimination case for £9,000.
Aine Magorrian, from Castlewellan, took a case against renewable energy company Saliis Ltd alleging sex discrimination, unlawful discrimination on grounds of pregnancy and unfair dismissal.
The company agreed to pay her £9,000 before the case went to a full tribunal hearing.
Mrs Magorrian, who worked at Saliis’s Carryduff facility, pursed her complaint with support from the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland.
She challenged the official reasons given for letting her go, loss of contracts and a downturn in work in the renewables business, and alleged she was actually selected for redundancy because of her pregnancy and maternity leave.
“I had always worked hard for the company and believe I made a very positive contribution to its work,” she said.
“Finding out that I was to be made redundant five months into my maternity leave was devastating for me and my family.”
The Equality Commission said, in settling the case, Saliis Ltd expressed regret for any upset to Mrs Magorrian.
The commission said Saliis has affirmed its commitment to the principles of equality of opportunity and to ensuring its policies, practices and procedures conform in all aspects with the sex discrimination legislation.
It said the company had also undertaken to meet with the commission to review its redundancy, maternity and equal opportunities policies and to consider the commission’s recommendations for any amendments and the training of staff.
Mrs Magorrian added: “I have moved on to another job, and am glad this episode is over.
“I hope that, by telling people about this case, other women can avoid finding themselves in the same situation.”
Mary Kitson, senior legal officer with the Equality Commission NI, said: “Issues around pregnancy and maternity in the workplace are the most common reason for complaints of sex discrimination made to the commission.
“The laws protecting women from this kind of discrimination were introduced so that they can remain in the workforce and not be disadvantaged because of pregnancy or family responsibilities.
“Despite the law this is still a major issue – half of the women who responded to our investigation last year into the treatment of pregnant workers and mothers at work said that they felt their career opportunities had been damaged by their pregnancy or maternity leave.”
A spokesman for Saliis Ltd said: “We value our employees very highly and always endeavour to treat every member of staff with the utmost respect, integrity and fairness.
“We have a history of helping and supporting our team during maternity leave, through sickness and other life events.
“Due to the nature of the renewables business, there are often fluctuations in demand and, on this occasion, it was unfortunate that we had to make the role of operations and maintenance manager redundant.
“We settled this case as, in this instance, we acknowledge that our redundancy procedures could have been more robust, and we have put steps in place to ensure that our policies and procedures are properly adhered to at all times.”