Pregnant worker claims unfair dismissal

By Jon PettyATTEMPTS to stem a £700,000 loss at a town's biggest employer cost a pregnant woman her job, an employment tribunal has been told.Lara Farrer told the hearing yesterday that while she accepted the need to contain costs at the Saxmundham firm, she believed her selection for redundancy had not been made on financial grounds.

By Jon Petty

ATTEMPTS to stem a £700,000 loss at a town's biggest employer cost a pregnant woman her job, an employment tribunal has been told.

Lara Farrer told the hearing yesterday that while she accepted the need to contain costs at the Saxmundham firm, she believed her selection for redundancy had not been made on financial grounds.

Mrs Farrer, who was at home expecting a baby when she lost her job, claimed the company had ceased to regard her as an asset following two spells of maternity leave and time off for sickness.


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She has claimed unfair dismissal, pregnancy-related dismissal and sexual discrimination. API Tenza, which operates at premises on the Carlton Park Industrial Estate in Saxmundham, has denied the claims.

When the tribunal opened in Bury St Edmunds, Mrs Farrer alleged the company had not expected her to return to her job as customer services manager in the labels section after having her first child.

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After returning to her £23,000-a-year post and then falling pregnant for a second time, Mrs Farrer said: “I believe I became a drain and not a resource.”

She told the tribunal panel: “I learned that if your face no longer fits, you find yourself in the redundancy criteria.”

Annual appraisals since joining API Tenza in October 1997 had never found any fault with her work and Mrs Farrer, of Broaden Lane, Hempnall, said: “My dismissal was based on long-term plans to remove me.”

She alleged the company had been concerned about her having further time off for childcare.

Manual jobs within the factory that were offered as an alternative to redundancy were “wholly unsuitable”, added Mrs Farrer, and her employment with API Tenza ceased at the end of April.

API Tenza chief executive, Andrew Kirk, said it had been facing a serious financial situation in the year ending September 2002 when the labels section had incurred a £700,000 loss.

He added the entire business, which now employs 119 people, was being put under threat as a result and action was needed to restore profitability.

A review saw the number of customers for labels reduced trimmed from 550 to just 20, which led to fewer staff being required.

Mr Kirk said Mrs Farrer's post had been one of 10 identified for redundancy after proper consultation and the chance of an appeal, which she did not take up.

The tribunal heard API Tenza, which is part of a multi-national group with a £180million-a-year turnover, prided itself on having fair employment policies and good benefits for staff, including those on long-term sick leave, which had included at times Mrs Farrer.

Mr Kirk said API Tenza employed 25 women, many of whom had taken maternity leave and returned to continue their employment with the company without any problems.

Tribunal chairman Brian Mitchell said a decision on Mrs Farrer's claims would be announced at a later date.

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