Office Worker’s Unfair Dismissal and Discrimination Case Dismissed After 28-Month

Office Worker’s Lawsuit Dismissed After Lengthy Maternity Leave

Jowita Parsons, an office worker, lost her job after taking a 28-month maternity leave and refusing to return to work. Her attempt to sue her employers for unfair dismissal and discrimination was unsuccessful.

Maternity Leave Extends to 28 Months

Jowita Parsons extended her time away from the office for over two years and four months.

This period encompassed two consecutive maternity leaves and additional leave for family-related matters, according to details presented at an employment tribunal.

Lack of Clarity and Disciplinary Warning

After more than two years, Ms. Parsons’ line manager requested a specific return-to-work date. However, she failed to provide one, stating that her return depended on the completion of her divorce and the sale of her house.

Her initial maternity leave began four weeks early, coinciding with a disciplinary warning linked to alleged “aggressive and inappropriate behavior.”

Disruption in a Small Business

Ms. Parsons’ lack of clarity regarding her return date and the extended leave caused disruption in the small business, which had just 21 staff members. This situation created stress for her colleagues.

Disciplinary Warning and Maternity Leave Request

Ms. Parsons commenced her employment as an import coordinator at International Forest Products Limited in March 2019.

Five months later, her line manager, Ben Wallace, raised concerns about her punctuality and work standards. Later that year, Ms. Parsons received an email from Mr. Wallace highlighting a work mistake. Her subsequent complaint against Mr. Wallace was unsuccessful, resulting in a disciplinary warning for her “aggressive and inappropriate behavior.” Shortly after this, she requested early maternity leave.

Extended Maternity Leave

Ms. Parsons, while still on her initial maternity leave, expressed her desire to extend it to 12 months, which was granted. However, she later became pregnant again, extending her second maternity leave.

Due to a “family issue,” her second maternity leave was further prolonged, pushing her return to the new year.

Refusal to Provide Return Date

When Ms. Parsons was informed that she would need additional training before returning to work, she was asked to specify a return date instead of leaving it open-ended. However, she declined to provide a return date, stating that she wouldn’t return until her divorce was finalized and her house sale was completed.

Legal Dismissal and Tribunal Ruling

In February 2022, Ms. Parsons’ employment was terminated due to her failure to return to work. She attempted to sue the company for unfair dismissal, discrimination based on pregnancy, and discrimination based on sex.

However, all her claims were dismissed by the tribunal.

Judge’s Ruling and Business Pressures

Employment judge Angela Shields noted that Ms. Parsons had repeatedly stated her inability to return to work, even when asked to provide alternative return suggestions in writing.

The judge also highlighted Ms. Parsons’ failure to offer a reasonable timeframe for her return. The tribunal ultimately ruled that Ms. Parsons was dismissed because she refused to return to work, and the company couldn’t indefinitely hold her position open.

Additionally, the tribunal acknowledged the real pressures on the company to fulfill the import coordinator role, resulting in genuine disruption during Ms. Parsons’ absence.

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