Authorised absence or dependant day: ask the expert

I recently had an authorised absence from work for one day.  My son had been knocked out playing football and was being admitted into hospital overnight.  I was due into work the next morning at 0545.  I told my manager that my mind would be all over the place and I was in tears at the time.  She told me that she would put me down as authorised absence.  On returning to work she advised me that she has changed it to dependant day.  This means that I no longer get paid for taking this day off.  However, I have just heard through various of my colleagues that when one girl’s father was taken into hospital she was allowed to use a sick day as her mind was elsewhere!  She still got paid.  Another of my colleague’s mother-in-law got taken into hospital and she was allowed two sick days.  I feel as if I am being discriminated against as I am a mother.  Can you please advise me?

As a mother, you do have an entitlement to time off in the event of an emergency concerning your child and legislation states that there is no obligation on your employer to pay you for this time. However, in your case you are obviously concerned that you are being treated differently to other employees. You state that your employer has allowed some of your colleagues to take paid time off in order to deal with personal matters and that these were classed as ‘sick days’ for which they were paid, and certainly some employers do allow this in order to be sympathetic to employees. The fact that you are being treated differently certainly points to discrimination on the grounds of sex and would entitle you to bring a claim for sex discrimination and resign to claim unfair dismissal.

In the first instance, you should try to deal with this matter informally. Arrange to speak with your Manager and explain your concerns, i.e. that she initially gave you an authorised absence for which you assumed you would be paid, but then she subsequently went back on this and recorded it as an unpaid day and state that you are aware that other colleagues have been allowed to take paid days off which were recorded as sickness absence. State that you feel differently treated due to being a mother. If you do not reach a resolution, you could consider raising a formal grievance. Your employer may have a grievance policy in place, and this will involve putting details of your grievance in writing, attending a meeting, your employer conducting an investigation before providing a response, and if you are still not satisfied with the outcome, an appeal.

In the event that you are still not satisfied after the formal grievance process, you could consider resigning and making a claim for constructive unfair dismissal and sex discrimination. However, in order to bring a successful claim for unfair dismissal, you must be able to show that your employer’s actions constituted a fundamental breach of your contract to the point that you found it intolerable to continue working there. Whilst the situation is understandably frustrating for you, it may not be sufficient for a strong unfair dismissal claim. You can however bring a claim for sex discrimination while still employed.

In the event that you are unable to reach a resolution and you require advice regarding a formal grievance and / or a Tribunal claim, please contact Tracey Guest on 0161 969 3131.

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