Pregnant HR worker wins £9,000 payout after she was refused pay rise

A pregnant HR worker has won £9,000 after she was refused a pay rise because she was due to go on maternity leave.

Laura Musguin felt as if she was ‘not worthy of a pay rise simply because she was growing a human’ after she was denied the ‘low’ £2,000 salary increase.

‘Angry and upset’ Ms Musguin, who had just returned from maternity leave with her first child, was told a pay rise was ‘not feasible’ as she was going on leave again with her second child in four months.

The experienced HR adviser had been left feeling ‘undervalued’ and asked for the increase as she discovered a junior HR worker was brought in for cover on just £3,000 less than her £30,000 salary.

Now, Ms Musguin has sued construction firm Breyer Group and won £9,000 after an employment tribunal ruled it was an ‘act of overt discrimination’ and ‘tainted’ her pregnancy.

The East London tribunal was told Ms Musguin joined Breyer, based in Romford, London, in July 2017 and went on maternity leave with her first child from June 2019 to August 2020.

While she was off, a junior HR coordinator was hired to provide cover and was offered a £27,000 salary.

When Ms Musguin came back from maternity leave in August 2020, she learned of the assistant’s salary.

Laura Musguin was told she couldn’t have a pay rise because of upcoming maternity leave

‘Ms Musguin was very unhappy that there was only a £3,000 difference between her salary as an HR Assistant compared to the more junior HR Coordinator role’, a tribunal report said.

‘She believed it to be deeply unfair and to undervalue her work and her experience.’

Just days later, Ms Musguin – now pregnant with her second child – made an argument to HR manager Hardeep Rayat that she should get a pay rise.

However, he later informed her that directors Tim Breyer and Neil Fisher rejected his request for her pay rise.

The report said: ‘Ms Musguin’s evidence is that Mr Rayat went into the meeting and that when he met her afterwards he told her that he had made the request for a pay rise but that this had been refused by Mr Fisher because she was due to commence a period of maternity leave at Christmas.

‘Mr Rayat told her that Mr Fisher had said that as she would only be in the business for four months, a pay rise was not feasible.’

Ms Musguin felt ‘disillusioned’, the tribunal heard.

In messages to a friend at the time, she said: ‘I am so upset and angry, it is not even about the pay increase, it is the fact that I am worth so little… that they think six pence is enough difference’.

Ms Musguin joined construction firm Breyer (pictured), based in Romford, London, in 2017

Ms Musguin joined construction firm Breyer (pictured), based in Romford, London, in 2017

‘They said they wouldn’t increase it seeing I am only back for four months.

‘[Mr Rayat] told them I was pregnant and going off at Christmas before he asked for my pay increase.

‘I am not sure I can go in tomorrow. I am so angry and upset, and even if Hardeep gets Tim to change his mind, I really know that he does not think I am worth it.

‘I am not worth £2k because I am pregnant and leaving again. What is the point of even trying.’

Following the meeting, a revised ‘business proposal’ was produced which stated the £2,000 pay rise would be granted if Ms Musguin ‘assumed additional responsibilities’.

She went on sick leave until her maternity leave, suffering sleep issues, the tribunal heard, and has since left the company.

Judge Alison Russell said: ‘The tribunal accepts her evidence that on August 24, 2020, she developed a migraine and had a sleepless night, was distressed, angry and upset because of the conversation she had with Mr Rayat about the refusal of the pay rise and the reason given for it.

‘Her evidence was that, as she told Mr Rayat, the damage was done: she was not worthy of a pay rise simply because she was growing a human.

‘The refusal of a pay rise is unfavourable treatment. Even if she was not entitled to a pay rise, the refusal to exercise discretion in favour of giving a pay rise because of impending maternity leave is clearly unfavourable.

‘This was an act of overt discrimination.

‘The actual upset caused was exacerbated by the fact that she felt undervalued because of her pregnancy.

‘Instead of seeing her pregnancy and impending maternity leave as a happy time to be enjoyed, it was tainted with mixed feelings as it was the stated cause of the reason she was initially refused the pay rise.’

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