Mother of triplets redundancy was sex discrimination
- Date: Thursday 28th April 2022
- PDF: Download
A recent tribunal ruling has highlighted to employers the risks of unfair treatment and inaccurate assumptions towards part-time employees when applying selection criteria for redundancy.
In this case, an employee was discriminated against and unfairly dismissed after returning from maternity leave to be informed that she was not focusing on her work.
The employee was a lawyer at British Gas Trading and in September 2017 she returned from maternity leave after having triplets. She also had a two-year-old son with “significant additional needs.” She returned to work on Mondays to Wednesdays, alongside a second solicitor with whom the workload was shared. When the colleague resigned the employee’s line manager put her under pressure to work on non-working days. The tribunal found the manager’s actions were “unsustainable and unreasonable.”
At the employee’s appraisal in 2018 she received a mix of positive and negative feedback and in March 2019 she was placed on a performance improvement plan. In June 2019, she was put at risk of redundancy and her 2017 performance rating was used as a selection criterion. However, due to taking maternity leave in 2017 the employee could not be assessed for the whole year. The tribunal noted that the performance rating for 2016 (her last complete year) should have been used instead.
In the selection criteria the employee was given a score of 1 out of 7 for “focus” meaning the employee rarely demonstrated this capability; the employee was consequently made redundant. This score contradicted the manager’s statement at the tribunal that the employee was “good in respect of the lion’s share of her work.”
The employee argued that using “focus” as a selection criterion was “stacked against her as a working mother.”
The tribunal found the dismissal was direct sex discrimination and she had been treated less favourably than a comparable full-time employee. The judge found that being a mother of young children was “unconsciously being held against her.”
Learning for employers
What can employers learn from this case?
- Ensure that selection criteria for redundancy are fair and equal to all employees.
- Use objective scoring that is evidence-based such as qualifications, skills, timekeeping, sickness absence, appraisal scores or disciplinary records.
- Challenge yourself on the fairness of criteria and how they might be perceived.
- Ensure that pay rates are fair for all peers by checking rates through salary surveys, accessing recruitment agency data, obtaining trade body salary data, reviewing job adverts and job board salary checker tools.
Source: Gavin Parrott