Daughter says her father's firm caused miscarriage in sex discrimination claim

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The Independent Online

A welder resumed her claim yesterday that she suffered sexual discrimination at her family's firm that caused her to have a miscarriage.

Suzanne Bunning began an appeal against an employment tribunal's decision last year to reject her contention of sexual discrimination and con-structive dismissal from the agricultural equipment manufacturer, GT Bunning.

Ms Bunning, 28, resigned from the Norfolk firm on 5 December 2001, a fortnight after suffering a miscarriage that she claims was brought on by the stress of having to carry on doing heavy work.

Miss Bunning, eight months pregnant with a second child, told the appeal panel in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, how tensions rose with her father, John, uncle Robin and aunt Doreen, who run the business in Gressenhall, after she became pregnant in September 2001.

She insisted she would be unable to continue welding because of the heavy lifting work involved even though a risk assessment had stated it was safe to do so. Despite pleas to her family, she was told to return to the workshop.

Miss Bunning, who is being represented by her partner, Tom Fletcher, 40, an accountant, said she had been "totally horrified" by their decision. "They were ordering me back without any concern for my fears. This was when I definitely knew the company could not be trusted with the health of my unborn baby," she said.

Miss Bunning, who has moved to Llanfyllin, Powys, said she had one of her ovaries removed when cysts developed after the miscarriage, and had been treated for depression.

Eventually, the firm found her a job in the stores but she claims she was working 12-hour days, continuing to lift objects with no chair.

She was one of eight welders in the workshop, and said the company, in effect, cut her off after her miscarriage.

"I certainly expected ... some show of sympathy and consideration on the part of the company but it became very clear after I returned home that no one from Bunning wished to have any contact with me at all," she said.

Mr Fletcher also gave evidence to the appeal in which he accused Bunning of having a "flippant" attitude towards health and safety issues.

The hearing was told Miss Bunning was one of the firm's most highly qualified welders. She had gained City and Guilds qualifications and started her career with a company in Hinckley, Leicestershire.

The appeal continues.