Mum who was made redundant from Liz Earle cosmetics weeks before giving birth takes firm to tribunal

A MUM claiming pregnancy discrimination against a leading female skincare brand that flew the flag for ‘female empowerment’ told an employment tribunal she was left ‘scared’ and worried about her unborn baby’s health after being made redundant just before giving birth.

Tuesday, 7th January 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 7th January 2020, 6:05 am
Helen Larkin of Southsea, who has taken cosmetics firm Liz Earle to an employment tribunal

Helen Larkin, 38, was made redundant from her digital channel marketing manager position at Liz Earle Beauty on June 15 last year before having her baby on July 24.

The mum-of-two from Southsea, who worked for the company between 2013-18, is claiming unfair dismissal and pregnancy discrimination against Liz Earle, a subsidiary of Walgreens Boots Alliance which owns retail giant Boots, after believing her redundancy was ‘entirely due to my pregnancy’.

Mrs Larkin told Southampton Employment Tribunal she was subjected to unfair procedures while being made redundant just two weeks after being told about Liz Earle’s ‘restructuring’ plans where jobs could be lost.

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The claimant, who said she later discovered her role was being performed by a new recruit under a different name for less money, told the hearing she applied for two other relevant roles without receiving interviews at the Isle of Wight company.

‘They wanted to get me out quickly so I wouldn’t receive any protection,’ she said. ‘The speed at which I was made redundant was key to not being offered interviews for other roles.’

Mrs Larkin said the timing of the redundancy just before her planned maternity leave had a huge impact on her. ‘What should have been a time of celebration was taken from me,’ she said.

‘I was scared, embarrassed, isolated and felt the joy had been sucked out of my impending birth. I was scared for the health of my baby as I knew high levels of stress at the latter stages of pregnancy could be detrimental to the future health of my unborn baby.

‘I was scared about how I would manage financially. Being the breadwinner of the family I faced having no job security.

‘This worry and angst continued through my maternity leave, negatively affecting the time I should have been focusing on my daughter.’

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The hearing heard how Mrs Larkin had ‘concerns’ over Liz Earle’s maternity policy after seeing her role diminished when she returned to work in 2014 after the birth of her first baby.

Following a meeting where employees were encouraged to flag up any issues Mrs Larkin emailed managing director Sandeep Verma to address her fears after the firm, with 90 per cent female staff, had spoken of the importance of women.

‘They spoke about female empowerment but I felt the reality was different,’ she said.

However, the claimant felt the move backfired. ‘I felt that me talking about the maternity issue made them unhappy and contributed to the way I was treated.’