Given notice due to family commitments: ask the expert

I am currently in a temp to perm position which I started in October.  At the first interview I was asked if I had “any commitments” to which I answered that I have two small children.  I was then asked how old they were and who looked after them.  I got called back for a second interview and was subsequently offered the job.  The job was through an agency. The hours of work were 9:00-5:30, which I said would not be suitable for me due to childcare arrangements.  The agency went back to them and they agreed that I could work 9:30-5:00.  On Friday of last week I was given one week’s notice and the reason for this was because they did not feel I could commit to the hours required to work – they have bids going out and would need me to stay late and maybe even work weekends with little or no notice. Obviously they knew my situation, and theirs, when they employed me, so to now say that is the reason they are giving me notice to me is unfair dismissal and discrimination.  Just wondering what my rights are.

In order to bring a claim for unfair dismissal at Tribunal you generally need to have worked for your employer for at least one year. However, if you have been dismissed for an ‘automatically unfair reason’ your length of service does not matter. One automatically unfair reason would be if your dismissal was connected to your status as a part-time worker. It seems that your dismissal was based upon the fact that you are unable to work in excess of your part-time hours, and as such you do have a potential claim.

Your situation is slightly more complicated by the fact that you are an agency worker. Only ’employees’ can bring claims for unfair dismissal, and more information would be needed to establish whether you are in fact an employee of the agency, the company, both, or even neither. The law is complex in this area and all relevant documentation would need to be examined, e.g. the contracts between the parties. I would be happy to look at this for you.

In terms of bringing a sex discrimination claim, there is no length of service requirement. Your claim would be based on the fact that you have been dismissed for being unable to work excessive hours with little notice. This could be sex discrimination on the basis that it tends to be women who require more flexibility in their working hours to accommodate childcare commitments. Rather than dismissing you, alternative options such as job shares should have been considered.

Again, the law is complex in terms of who you would be able to bring your claim against. Whilst discrimination laws protect a wider group than those protected against unfair dismissal, further information would be required as to who is actually responsible for the discriminatory act. In most cases involving agency workers, it is the agency that the claim would be brought against.

Finally, you should be aware than any claims must be submitted to the Tribunal within three months of the date of dismissal.

If you require further advice in respect of your potential claims, please contact Tracey Guest on 0161 975 3823.

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