Northampton nursery owner ordered to pay £40,000 to pregnant manager she unfairly sacked

A judge ruled Maria Noble carried out an "oppressive and high-handed" campaign against her employee

Friday, 11th June 2021, 1:22 pm
Updated Friday, 11th June 2021, 1:24 pm
The operator of three nurseries in Northampton has been ordered to pay £40,000 in compensation to a former manager she sacked.
The operator of three nurseries in Northampton has been ordered to pay £40,000 in compensation to a former manager she sacked.

The owner of a Northampton nursery chain who refused to let a pregnant manager attend hospital appointments and sacked her over false allegations has been ordered to pay £40,000 in compensation.

A judge ruled former nursery manager Simone Cousins was subjected to an "oppressive" campaign of unfair treatment at the hands of her boss, Mrs Maria Noble.

It included stopping the expecting mother from attending antenatal appointments and "pressuring" her to work normal hours despite suffering from fatigue, before firing her after accusing her of falsifying wages without evidence.

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Mrs Noble - owner of The Nannery Ltd, also known as Home From Home, and currently operator of three nurseries in Northampton - has now been ordered to pay £39,535 in compensation to her former manager.

In 2018, Ms Cousins worked for Mrs Noble at the Dovecote Nursery in Kislingbury, which was closed in February this year, a decision Mrs Noble took during a visit from Ofsted following a complaint over childcare provision.An tribunal heard after announcing her pregnancy, Ms Cousins subsequently asked for time off for five appointments during her pregnancy. Only one was granted - the others were refused, or Mrs Noble forced her to reschedule them up to three times, causing issues.

Mrs Noble made no attempt to arrange cover, the judge heard.

After this, Ms Cousins was accused by Mrs Noble of claiming up to 58 hours of wages she did not work, for which there was no evidence.

Another incident including Mrs Noble sending Ms Cousins 90 questions in an email at 5pm and demanding answers to all of them by 10am the next day.

Then, at a formal meeting, Ms Cousins was told she could be sacked for gross misconduct, which time claiming she had put in for 95 hours she did not work. She was then fired.

The tribunal heard Ms Cousins had "a good relationship" for the two years she worked for Mrs Noble prior to revealing she was pregnant.

Employment Judge Robin Postle said: "Following the announcement of Ms Cousins’ pregnancy she was accused of falsifying wages without any evidence to support this claim

"It was oppressive and high handed.

"The tribunal is left with the inevitable conclusion that the reason for the Ms Cousins’ dismissal was her pregnancy."

In May 2018, Simone Cousins gave birth to her daughter Sophie, who was born with the rare congenital condition Apert Syndrome and two holes in her heart.

After her mother was told she might never walk, Little Sophie charmed Chron readers in 2020 when she raised an incredible £1,637 by walking 4.5 miles around her village for Barnardo's Big Toddle Walk.

Despite the closure of Dovecote, The Nannery Ltd operates three other nurseries in Northampton - Village View, in Great Houghton, Parkside, on St George's Avenue, and Riverside, on Crow Lane.