Liz Earle tribunal: Judge angry as beauty firm ignores order issued by court

A TRIBUNAL judge ripped into the conduct of a heavyweight beauty brand after it ‘failed to comply with an order’ of the court when fighting a maternity discrimination claim by a pregnant mum.

Wednesday, 8th January 2020, 12:54 pm
Updated Wednesday, 8th January 2020, 12:57 pm
Helen Larkin outside Liz Earle cosmetics

Judge Catherine Rayner was angry that representatives of Liz Earle Beauty had failed to disclose information requested for the hearing at Southampton Tribunal Court.

It meant claimant Helen Larkin could have been left fighting her case on an ‘uneven playing field’ but for intervention from the court.

Judge Rayner told Liz Earle barrister Alex Young: ‘I’m very concerned about the failure to comply with the order. There is a clear breach.

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‘At best it is an error and at worst it has the appearance of deliberate obfuscation.’

Meanwhile during cross-examination of HR chief Lynn Ellsbury by Mrs Larkin, the mum-of-two from Southsea, who worked for the company between 2013-18, questioned the representative over the firm’s maternity policy.

The 38-year-old asked: ‘Do you feel managers are aware of the process HR has in place and their obligations for maternity leave?’

Ms Ellsbury replied: ‘Yes there is a consistent process.’

Mrs Larkin, responding, hit back: ‘Are all managers in the business aware of their obligations?’

Ms Ellsbury conceded: ‘Probably not through the whole business.’

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Mrs Larkin also forced Ms Ellsbury to reveal a conversation occurred between the HR boss and Julie Slaymaker, the claimant’s new boss.

The claimant said: ‘Did Julie approach you to ask about implications of pregnancy maternity?’

Ms Ellsbury replied: ‘I probably flagged it to her. I approached her.’

The mum went on to question the HR chief about how she was overlooked in replacing her boss Katie Johnson, who had handed in her notice.

‘Why was I not made aware of the vacancy?’ she asked.

Ms Ellsbury said the role was ‘advertised both internally and externally’.

But when it was pointed out the role didn’t go up on the website, Ms Ellsbury said she didn’t know why.

Mrs Larkin was made redundant in June last year before giving birth the following month.

Mrs Larkin said her redundancy was ‘rushed’ through having been just two weeks after being told about Liz Earle’s ‘restructuring’ plans where jobs could be lost.

But Ms Ellsbury, responding to whether two weeks was enough time to find other suitable roles, said: ‘Yes, I appreciate it is a stressful situation but we always try to be as empathetic as possible.’

Mrs Larkin is claiming unfair dismissal and pregnancy discrimination against Liz Earle, a subsidiary of Walgreens Boots Alliance which owns retail giant Boots.