I had a strong case for unfair dismissal on the grounds of sex discrimination

I was pregnant and teaching in an independent school. All went well before taking maternity leave. The long-term departmental planning was going ahead and a new-build programme for the department involved my input right up to starting maternity leave at the end of term. During the holiday, 4 weeks before my due date, I received a letter from the Head saying I was no longer required in school, with immediate effect. I contacted my local Citizens Advice Bureau and an adviser supported me through an application to an employment tribunal. He felt I had a strong case for unfair dismissal on the grounds of sex discrimination. A few days before the tribunal was due, the school offered me a lump sum in settlement. We guessed the publicity would be bad for the school, hence the offer. We refused the initial offer which was then increased. The adviser recommended I accept the second offer as, from his experience, it would not increase as a result of the tribunal. The school, in effect, got away with it. The settlement was not large, £1200. I later found out that he was a habitual hire-and-fire Head – many women, and they were all women, though not all pregnant, continued to lose their jobs for no good reason. It was generally thought in the school that he appeared to enjoy the power he wielded. My replacement was female and single, younger, therefore cheaper, and not as well-qualified or experienced. Schools, particularly independent schools, need women to have children, a simple fact he just couldn’t grasp.

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