The case of Sophie Dyer who is bringing a claim of equal pay and sex discrimination against IBM has now reached Croydon employment tribunal.
Dyer, who is being supported by the Equal Opportunities Commission, claims that she was not promoted alongside other graduate trainees because she had been on maternity leave. As a result she received a lower pay rise than her colleagues and has continued to receive less pay ever since.
In addition, Dyer alleges that after coming back to work part-time, she experienced detrimental comments about being part-time, was given lower-level work, an unfavorable assessment and was refused a sabbatical.
This is the first case to test the ramifications of the recent case of Ms Alabaster, who last week won her marathon nine-year claim for a pay rise which was awarded just before she went on maternity leave.
In that case the Court of Appeal ruled that European sex discrimination law had been broken because Alabaster's pay increase was not included in her maternity pay calculations. It made it clear that women on maternity leave could use the Equal Pay Act to argue for equal pay without needing to compare themselves to a man, because men do not get pregnant.
Dyer's case is set to be heard at Croydon Employment Tribunal until May 16.
Julie Mellor, chairperson of the Equal Opportunities Commission said: "Britain is facing a skills crisis if it does not address the need for fair treatment for pregnant women at work and flexible hours at work when they return.
“This case highlights how women often first hit discrimination when they are pregnant at work and how women are often hardest hit by the part-time 'penalty', which damages their career prospects because they take on more of the caring role at home.”