Working Families welcomes discrimination ruling in childcare case at Employment Appeal Tribunal.
Campaigners have welcomed an Employment Appeal Tribunal judgement that the burden of caring for children falls more heavily on women.
The case involved Gemma Dobson, a community nurse and mum of three, two of whom have disabilities, whose employer, North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Trust, tried to demand she move to frequently changing shift patterns. For years she had worked set days to accommodate her caring needs. The Trust sought to impose a change in her contracted hours requiring her to work on a flexible schedule, changing her normal work pattern and including weekend working at their discretion.
Given her caring responsibility she could not do the changed hours and she was dismissed. The Appeal Tribunal ruled that she was discriminated against because of the ‘childcare disparity’ .
Working Families, whose CEO Jane van Zyl gave evidence in the case, says the judgement makes clear that all future cases can take it as fact that women are more likely to suffer a disadvantage as a result of childcare responsibilities than men. The campaign groups says this is “vital clarity” for the many cases of indirect sex discrimination where employers attempt to force changes that make childcare impossible and have the effect of forcing women out of their jobs.
It adds that, had the appeal been rejected, it would have meant individual women would have had to present evidence to show women shoulder more of the caring burden than men, making it harder for them to bring discrimination case.
Van Zyl said: “We are delighted with the result in Mrs Dobson’s case. This has clarified and reinforced the existing protection for working mothers from discrimination: something that many women who come to us for help rely on in their cases. We know that women have shouldered the major burden of caring responsibilities through the pandemic. As the economic impact of Covid takes hold and the furlough scheme comes to an end, this judgement is a welcome protection that makes it clear that anything that impacts on childcare impacts disproportionately on women.
“Of course, we want to live in a world where caring responsibilities are shared equally, but the hard truth is that we are nowhere near that yet. To lose this case would have represented a huge step backwards for women’s workplace rights, and we are really pleased with the judgement.”