Under a recent ruling in the employment tribunal, a claimant was successful in her claim that she was unfairly dismissed by her employer as a result of concerns over her ability to ‘focus’ on her work.
Following returning from maternity leave in September 2017, the claimant, claimed that she had been a victim of discrimination leading up to her redundancy in July 2019.
Upon returning from maternity leave, it is understood that the claimant was contracted to work on reduced hours of three days a week to accommodate her childcare commitments to her two-year-old triplets and her son with additional needs. However, when a fellow colleague left the company in June 2018, the claimant claimed that she had started to come under pressure from her employer to work overtime to compensate. The tribunal was directed to emails sent between her line managers in support of the claimant’s assertions.
It is reported that the claimant was also subject to annual performance reviews in which she was scored one out of seven for ‘focus’, meaning that she ‘rarely demonstrates this capability and/or sometimes the opposite’. The claimant claimed that “[the criteria] was stacked against [her] as a working mother”.
The claimant also raised allegations that in March 2019, whilst she had been placed on a ‘performance improvement plan’ that a male was employed in the same role on an increased salary to that which she received..
The claim was on the belief that she was ‘consciously or unconsciously discriminated against’ on the grounds of sex and her part-time status. The tribunal noted that her employers ‘assumed that the claimant was not performing as well as a full-time male colleague,’ while also citing the fact that she had been working on reduced hours due to her childcare commitments.
It was held that ‘[the claimant’s] personal circumstances as a mother of young children was unconsciously being held against her’ and that the scoring matrix used in the performance review ‘has had an obviously discriminatory effect.’
Therefore, it was ruled that the claimant’s claims of unfair dismissal, sex discrimination and less favourable treatment were all successful. The claimant was also successful in a claim of equal pay as the respondent was unable to evidence that the difference in pay between the claimant and her male colleague was not related to her sex, despite claims that the reasoning was down to ‘marketing factors’.
By Thomas Yates, employment and discrimination advisor