Insurance giant Aviva has ‘pushed out’ one of its most senior women while she was on maturity leave.
Sarah Morris, 40, was made the ‘chief people officer’ in August 2015 and was awarded of the Financial Times’s ‘HERoes’ in 2017 after her equality drive campaign.
She launched the drive just 18 months ago to give all new parents the same amount of paid time off.
But Ms Morris went on maternity leave last July, was believed to have given birth to a boy in August and was sent on gardening leave at the end of last month.
Sarah Morris, 40, (pictured) has been ‘pushed out’ by insurance giant Aviva while she was on maternity leave
It comes despite the firm pledging to help new parents and hitting out at other companies for not promoting women.
Ms Morris’s page has been taken down from the leadership part of the company’s website and leaves just three women out of eight people on its board, as well as three out of 12 women in its leadership team.
Aviva – which employs around 30,000 staff in total and has major offices in Norwich, Bristol, Sheffield, York, Perth and Bishopbriggs outside Glasgow – has faced criticism for its actions.
Ann Francke, chief executive of the Chartered Management Institute, told the Sunday Times: ‘This suggests Aviva is not walking the walk. What sort of signal does this send to employees? To women — and men — who want children?’
Aviva has previously claimed it would end contracts with other businesses who refuse to put women in senior roles.
Ms Morris issued a letter saying that ‘publicly backing’ women’s initiatives would give them a ‘competitive edge’.
Aviva It posted a picture of Ms Morris on its Twitter page in November 2017 with the caption: ‘We are committed to supporting all of our people who want to take time out from their career to spend with their family. That’s why we are offering equal paid parental leave for all new Aviva parents’
It posted a picture of Ms Morris on its Twitter page in November 2017 with the caption: ‘We are committed to supporting all of our people who want to take time out from their career to spend with their family.
‘That’s why we are offering equal paid parental leave for all new Aviva parents.’
Ms Morris added to the Evening Standard last year: ‘My team and I have recently implemented global parental leave in most of our markets. It’s a fully funded equal parental leave for all our colleagues when they have a child.
‘I’m about to go on maternity leave and I’m taking a proper amount of time out, between six and nine months.
‘I’m not going to try and be a superhero who works until the day that my baby arrives. I will come back to this role — the question is, will I come back full-time, four days a week? I don’t know.
‘I think you can have a brilliant career and love what you do, and have a family.’
MailOnline contacted Ms Morris and Aviva for comment.
In a statement issued to Aviva staff, she was quoted as saying: ‘I am handing over the baton of chief people officer to pursue the next challenge in my career… This has not been an easy decision.’
The company was already facing problems this week as it announced it will cut around 1,800 jobs over the next three years as part of an overhaul to save £300million a year.
Aviva – which employs around 30,000 staff in total – said it will look to keep redundancies to a minimum, with some of the role cuts coming from natural staff turnover. Pictured: Aviva’s headquarters in the City of London
Aviva said it will look to keep redundancies to a minimum, with some of the role cuts coming from natural staff turnover.
It has not given a split of which teams or offices will be affected, but said the cuts will be made across its UK and international operations.
The group also announced plans to split its UK life and general insurance businesses to ‘enable stronger accountability and greater management focus.’
It said savings will be made across central costs, contractor and consultant spend, reduction in project spend and in other areas.
The job cuts have been announced just three months after the appointment of a new chief executive.
Maurice Tulloch told investors that finding savings was ‘essential to remain competitive’.
Aviva’s new chief executive Maurice Tulloch, who took the job in March, told investors that finding savings was ‘essential to remain competitive’
He said: ‘Reducing Aviva’s costs is essential to remain competitive and this means tough decisions and job losses which I do not take lightly.
‘We will do all we can to minimise redundancies and support our people through this.
He added: ‘I am also determined to crack Aviva’s complexity, an issue which has held back our performance for too long.’
The group said its separated UK life business will be headed up by Angela Darlington, formerly chief risk officer, while previous Canadian boss Colm Holmes has been appointed chief executive of UK general insurance.
Customers will not see any changes as a result of the UK split, it said.
The combined business was previously led by Andy Briggs, who stepped down in April just weeks after he missed out on the top job.
He remains with the insurer until October 23 to support an orderly transition.
Mr Tulloch – who took over from former boss Mark Wilson – said in April he was leading a review of the UK businesses ‘to ensure the appropriate management structure’.