Jane Hayes, the senior insurance underwriter who brought one of the first of the current wave of “sexism in the City” cases, yesterday said she had made the point that a woman should be able to combine a career and motherhood without fear of discrimination.
Ms Hayes spoke out after reaching a settlement with her former employers for an undisclosed sum.
Now 39, Ms Hayes claimed to have been deprived of about £2m worth of bonus shares while on maternity leave but lost her original battle before an employment tribunal.
On appeal, she won the right to have the entire case re-heard on the grounds that the original tribunal’s approach to the sex discrimination issue had been “fatally flawed in law”.
Yesterday, however, before the new proceedings could get under way, Ms Hayes said that she had reached an out-of-court settlement with her former employers.
Ms Hayes had been a senior underwriter at Charman Underwriting Agencies at Lloyds when the alleged discrimination took place. Charman has since been acquired by ACE of Bermuda. Yesterday, ACE confirmed that “agreement has been reached”, but also declined to discuss the sums involved.
Afterwards, Ms Hayes said she had continued to pursue the case because she believed it to be “an issue of principle”.
“As I said at the time of the original hearing in 1999, professional women should be able to sustain a successful career and be a good mother without fear of discrimination or prejudice,” she commented. “My point has been made and I now consider the matter closed.”
Ms Hayes, who was responsible for underwriting onshore and offshore energy risks accounts at Charman and earned about £100,000 with bonuses, claimed to have been passed over for a performance-related share bonus in 1994 because she had taken six months off for the birth of her first child.
Ms Hayes had previously received various share packages. When Charman was taken over four years later, the shares turned out to be worth about £2m.
During the original tribunal hearing, the city underwriter claimed that working relations with John Charman, her managing director, deteriorated sharply after she took spells of maternity leave – to the point where he excluded her from a cocktail party for a business associate’s retirement.
Mr Charman, however, told the hearing that the decision not to allocate the share options to Ms Hayes was taken because of what he called unexceptional performance and because she was “in it for herself” – although he also acknowledged that she did 20 hours’ work a week from home while on maternity leave.
“Financial Times” – August 2002