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Former Lincoln Pizza Express staff claims maternity discrimination

A Lincoln woman is taking action against her former employers, Pizza Express, who she says sacked her because she was pregnant, claims she was never told that working three days per week was impossible because of other workers’ shift patterns, a tribunal has heard.

Jennifer Sammut (28) told the hearing that she had heard that giving her the hours she wanted would displace the hours other colleagues could work.

Read what happened in the first day in court

She felt the company failed to investigate the times she could have worked properly and based it on incorrect facts.

She also claimed that her allegations she was bullied before her maternity leave started were not properly looked into by her former employers.

She said “I just wanted my job back. I wanted to work, to put clothes on my daughter’s back.”

When put to Miss Sammut again that giving her the hours she wanted would displace other shifts and leave limited rota options for other staff, she said “I only wanted 16 hours – there are 40 to be worked in a week.”

— Updated at 5pm on April 15

There was no intention to discriminate against a female employee who was told she could not return to her job as a pizza chef after the birth of her baby, a tribunal heard.

Pizza Express Manager Shelley Whitworth said all options to accommodate flexible working hours were looked at to help Jennifer Sammut get back to work.

Giving evidence on the second day of the hearing at Lincoln Magistrates Court, Mrs Whitworth said no compromise could be reached between Miss Sammut’s need to work around child care and the firm’s business needs.

“She wanted two days from 9-5 but that was not possible because it would only leave one day shift for five or six chefs to argue over,” she said.

Representing herself, Miss Sammut cross-examined the witness and put to her that she had no experience in handling flexible working applications.

She also failed to give out the correct email address and phone number for Miss Sammut to submit her application, but Mrs Whitworth denied this saying that she didn’t know it and had no reason to use it in the past.

Mrs Whitworth also denied that she told Miss Sammut that she had to put her daughter with a child minder until as late at 10pm in order to be able to work.

“I was throwing out all sorts of options, trying to reach a compromise, but she wanted the hours 9am to 5pm two days per week,” Mrs Whitworth said.

She also denied that she had tried to make Miss Sammut agree to staying on later after 6pm when her child care would no longer be available.

“I just wanted to know how flexible she could be within the hours she had, but I never suggested that she put her child in care until 10pm, nor that she had to stay longer, then maybe a few minutes after her shift ended, for the staff changeover if necessary,” she said.

The tribunal, which continues tomorrow, was told that in arranging flexible working time it was also up to the employee to be flexible enough to reach a compromise that would suit the needs of the employer and employee.