Liz Earle tribunal: Mum who was made redundant while pregnant accuses firm of 'cover-up'

A MUM claiming maternity discrimination against a leading beauty brand claimed they were guilty of a ‘cover-up’.

Wednesday, 8th January 2020, 5:29 pm
Updated Wednesday, 8th January 2020, 6:52 pm
Helen Larkin with her children Dexter, left, and Alice Picture submitted by Helen Larkin

Helen Larkin delivered a scathing assessment of her treatment by Liz Earle Beauty during her summing up at Southampton Tribunal Court.

The Southsea mum-of-two told the tribunal she was ‘rushed’ into redundancy last June before giving birth the following month - with her removal solely ‘down to my pregnancy’.

Following an emotional three days at the tribunal, the 38-year-old fought back the tears one final time before rallying to deliver her damning verdict on the beauty giant.

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She said: ‘I believe I did not need to be made redundant and they could have found me alternative employment.

‘The restructure took place so Julie Slaymaker (Mrs Larkin’s new boss) could get people she wanted in the business. The fact I was pregnant was a reason to get rid of me.’

The mum, who was taking on the retail giant, owned by American multinational Walgreens Boots Alliance, told the hearing she was victim to underhand actions by the company - alluded to during the case by judge Catherine Rayner.

‘Time and again I would request information and they would not give it to me,’ Mrs Larkin said. ‘I feel they have been guilty of covering up things.’

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Speaking of the impact losing her digital channel marketing role had on her as she was about to go on ‘legally protected’ maternity leave, she said: ‘It cast a shadow over my whole maternity leave that I had with my daughter.’

Mrs Larkin added that she had been ‘treated unfavourably’ when applying for two other ‘relevant’ roles with her not even interviewed. Nor was she given the opportunity to apply for her departing manager’s role after it had already been filled before staff were told.

But Alex Young, barrister for Liz Earle claimed the company had done nothing wrong.

‘Claims the restructure was a sham to get (Mrs Larkin) out of the business have no evidence,’ he said.

He said there was ‘clearly a new digital marketing structure’ and ‘obviously an agenda for change’.

Mr Young added: ‘There were clearly a lot of thoughts about how much (the restructure) was going to cost. It seems like a great deal of effort if it was just for an agenda to get rid of a pregnant woman.’

Earlier, Paul Bompas, one of the tribunal panel, delivered a scathing inquisition on the practices of Liz Earle.

Questioning HR chief Lynn Ellsbury, the panel member said: ‘Did you not think it was important to find alternative employment for Mrs Larkin in the company?’

Ms Ellsbury replied ‘yes’ before adding that she did ‘everything in her responsibility’.

But the unimpressed panel member savagely responded: ‘Is it fair to say you did the minimum?’

‘No,’ replied the HR boss.

Mr Bompas also asked ‘why don’t you have a redundancy policy?’, to which Ms Ellsbury responded: ‘I don’t know.’

Mrs Larkin is claiming unfair dismissal and maternity discrimination.