I am a single mother looking after my four-year-old son. His school closed due to coronavirus crisis. I am paid hourly. I usually work four days a week and receive universal credit. I am currently staying home with my son as I am not prepared to bring my child to work . The boss of the company suggest that I do this when it is safe if the school doesn’t reopen. I am not happy at all to bring my son into work. I am scared that the boss will use the crisis for not paying me and that I will find myself in huge debt. The work can not be done at home. I requested to be furloughed, but my boss refused and sent me a termination email. Is this discrimination? What can I do?
Firstly, discrimination has to be on the basis of a protected characteristic and so unless you are able to show less favourable treatment on that basis there is unlikely to be a claim under the Equalities Act.
There is a possibility of a claim for indirect discrimination on the grounds of sex. The argument being that more women than men have caring responsibilities for children and the provision, criterion or practice, of requiring all employees to come into work is more detrimental to you on grounds of you having childcare responsibilities.
It doesn’t sound like this is a redundancy situation if work is available and so there could be a potential unfair dismissal, but this would only apply if you had worked there for two years or more. Also, there is a possibility that the employer has breached the implied duty of trust and confidence in dismissing you in circumstances where you have refused to bring her child into work with her.
In addition to the possibilities of asking for time off (unpaid) for looking after a child, you could have been furloughed, but the employer is not obliged to do this.