Part Time Workers and Sex Discrimination

March 10, 2017

Dispute Resolution

Part Time Workers and Sex Discrimination

It is not possible to explain the workings of sex discrimination legislation in a short note/blog.  But there is one aspect of a recent decision of the Employment Appeal Tribunal that is worth noting.

In this case there was a female engineer who was employed on a full time contract.  She then, at her request and following the birth of her child, moved to a part time contract.  This seems to have worked well for a time but the employee always made clear that she needed to leave work by 5.00pm for child care duties.

One of her functions was to make changes and function increases in the employer’s computer systems.  This work could only start after 4.30pm when the financial markets closed and would normally go on past 5.00pm. Although originally allowed to leave at 5.00pm and continue working from home to deal with the requirements, that arrangement changed.  She was told that she could not leave at that time.

Then there was a redundancy situation.  The job that our employee did was to be merged into that with another.  Our employee did not apply for the post; she did not want it because of the need to be at the office after 5.00pm.  She was made redundant.

She then claimed unfair dismissal, sex discrimination and part time worker discrimination.

The actual facts and findings were complicated but, for the purposes of this note, two things of importance emerged.  They were that:

  1. The change of mind in relation to allowing the employee to leave work at 5.00pm was less favourable treatment (indirect sex discrimination) of which her part time status was the main cause.
  2. The requirement (known as a provision, criterion or practice in equality law jargon) to carry out work after 5.00pm at the office was a disadvantage more likely to be suffered by women given that they, as a group, were both more likely than men to have child care duties and also more likely to have to collect children from nursery after work.

Fidessa Plc v Lancaster 2017 is the name of the case.

If you need help or advance on an employment matter, whether as an employer or an employee, please contact Julian Freeland on 01865 244661.

posted by Julian Freeland | March 10 2017