Firm denies sex discrimination

By Jon PettyA COMPANY boss has denied claims made by a worker who had a baby that she had been unfairly treated by the firm.Michael Lee, chairman of Colchester-based Rapid Electronics Ltd, told an employment tribunal the allegations were untrue and did not reflect what had happened at the company's headquarters.

By Jon Petty

A COMPANY boss has denied claims made by a worker who had a baby that she had been unfairly treated by the firm.

Michael Lee, chairman of Colchester-based Rapid Electronics Ltd, told an employment tribunal the allegations were untrue and did not reflect what had happened at the company's headquarters.

Former accounts manager Jacqueline Andrews has claimed she was not allowed to return to her old post when she came back from maternity leave earlier this year.

She has brought a case for sexual discrimination and breach of contract after informing the company she only wanted in future to work a three-day week and being offered a post that she felt was of lower status with less responsibility.

As a result Mrs Andrews, of Ann Beaumont Way, Hadleigh, decided in February to resign, claiming she had effectively been forced to go.

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When the hearing at Bury St Edmunds opened on Monday, Mrs Andrews alleged the company had placed an advertisement while she was on maternity leave for a post that sounded similar to her own, which she had been assured was being kept open for her.

Mr Lee, one of the founders of the business, based in Severalls Lane, strongly denied yesterday the recruitment of a new member of staff to handle many of Mrs Andrews' previous tasks had been part of any move to push her out.

He said the company, which employs more than 100 people, needed someone to work on its budget plans and to examine costs, for which Mrs Andrews was considered to be ideal, taking into account her wish to work part-time.

That role was a key one and formed an important part of a reorganisation of the accounts section to help maintain the profitability of the business, added Mr Lee.

He insisted the position was not a demotion and was considered to be of equal management status as her previous job.

Mr Lee said if Mrs Andrews had said she wanted to return to working full-time, then her old job would have been made available with the new financial controller being moved to other duties.

He added: “I didn't want her to resign. We always had a very close and good working relationship. Indeed, I think I was something of a father figure to her.”

Mr Lee said the company, which distributes electronic components, had a largely female workforce and added he was well aware of the legal requirements covering women who wished to return after maternity leave.

Mrs Andrews, who worked for Rapid Electronics Ltd for 15 years and had worked her way up to the £27,000-a-year post of accounts manager, told the tribunal the company had gone back on its word.

The hearing continues today.

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