Worker 'was ousted after having baby'

INSURANCE bosses launched a campaign to oust a member of staff from her job after she took six months maternity leave, it has been claimed.Lenka Sheridan yesterday told an employment tribunal how her life was made misery following her return to Alliance Insurance Management Ltd in Bury St Edmunds, after taking time off to care for her newborn son.

INSURANCE bosses launched a campaign to oust a member of staff from her job after she took six months maternity leave, it has been claimed.

Lenka Sheridan yesterday told an employment tribunal how her life was made misery following her return to Alliance Insurance Management Ltd in Bury St Edmunds, after taking time off to care for her newborn son.

And she believes she was secretly replaced by a male colleague who was given a director's job she thought she was in line for.

Mrs Sheridan, of Tudor Road in Sudbury, said she had “loved” her job as group finance manager at the firm, where she had worked for 10 years.


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She said that prior to the start of her maternity leave in January 2006, she and directors at the company had talked about possible promotion to finance director upon her return to work.

But she claims that when she did go back to her job later that year, the man who had been employed to provide maternity cover was not only to continue at the company but had taken over the majority of her responsibilities, meaning her role within the company had “diminished considerably”.

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“I was unsure of what role was left for me,” she told the tribunal. “Stripping me of my responsibilities would not leave much.”

Mrs Sheridan, who is claiming unfair dismissal and sexual discrimination, said that over the next month she was made to feel unwelcome at the firm, and believed that senior management was trying to get rid of her.

She also had an application for flexible working hours turned down, after initially being told she and the firm would be able to come to an arrangement for her to work from home two days a week.

“The directors could not have made it plainer - I was not welcome back,” she said. “The company was trying to push me out.”

“All the liaising with other directors that I had previously had was now carried out through other people. My belief is that this behaviour was carried out not only to exclude me, but to make me feel more isolated. I was very much the spare part.”

Mrs Sheridan said the last straw came when she read an email sent to her own personal assistant from the company's chief executive, pointing to the fact her assistant had been pretending to be her friend in order to glean information, which she then fed back to the directors.

Without thinking, Mrs Sheridan forwarded the email to the whole company, an action she said she regretted immediately and one that lead to her eventual dismissal from the firm.

“I could not believe that someone who was supposed to be my friend and had comforted me had been gleaning information to pass back,” said Mrs Sheridan, who said her mental health suffered as a result of the whole incident and was unable to find suitable work.

“I have suffered a period of extraordinary anguish, none of which I believe would have happened of I had not taken maternity leave.”

The tribunal, being held at Bury St Edmunds, continues.

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