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Belfast firm pays £15,000 settlement to woman sacked after getting pregnant

Manager lodged case with Equality Commission over her treatment at web designer


Susanne Rice and her daughter Isobella

Susanne Rice and her daughter Isobella

Susanne Rice and her daughter Isobella

A woman sacked by a Belfast web design company weeks after revealing she was pregnant has been awarded £15,000.

Susanne Rice (36) settled her discrimination case against Flint Studios Ltd, which paid out without admitting liability. 

The former operations manager at the firm based in Ravenhill Business Park claims she was mistreated by colleagues, who likened maternity leave to a holiday.

“I went into this job with an enthusiastic commitment to help the company achieve its goals,” the mum-of-two said. 

“I felt my professional contribution was ignored, and that I had been bullied, and I felt upset and humiliated at the way I was spoken to by senior management in front of other staff.”

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Ms Rice, the only woman on the senior leadership team, found out she was expecting at the end of January 2020.

Due to her medical history she chose not to announce the news at that time. When the pandemic hit, she was added to the shielding list. It meant she had to show the letter from her GP to her boss, and by June 1 she was made redundant. 

“The way my redundancy was handled severely affected my health and our family finances,” she explained.

She alleges male co-workers ignored her when she raised managerial concerns and made suggestions for workplace improvements.

She believes she was made to feel “uncomfortable” by senior male staff because of her sex and age, citing examples of being excluded from emails and meetings, which limited her business performance.

Ms Rice alleged one male colleague said, “I am older than you, I have more experience than you and so I know better”, when demonstrating new software. On another occasion she claimed a senior male employee espoused the view “women have the life of it on maternity leave”, which was “like an extended holiday”.

Ms Rice was quick to remind her co-workers it was a woman’s right to take up to a year off on maternity leave “which certainly wasn’t a holiday”. However, she felt her robust defence fell upon deaf ears, and lodged a case with the Equality Commission. 

Senior legal officer Mary Kitson said commitment to diversity in the workplace should be led from the top and understood by all.

“A genuinely progressive organisation will carry out its legal responsibilities and provide equal opportunities,” she said.

“It will not stereotype and exclude women and will ensure that pregnant employees feel welcome and valued.

“Promoting equality for women at work is a priority for the commission, and a particular focus is encouraging women to consider careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”

She expressed joy that Ms Rice had found a new job where she is able to reach her full potential while juggling the responsibilities of parenthood.

“This should be possible for all women,” Ms Kitson said. Ms Rice said she was happy in her new workplace and had moved on from the ordeal.

She added: “I feel my skills are valued there and I’m now enjoying my work and my family life.”

Flint Studios Ltd said the company was “committed to promoting equality and opportunity in the workplace”.

It added: “ This matter was settled on a commercial basis and without admission of liability.”

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