Policy News Journal - 2014-15

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) has lost a sex discrimination case against an employee who wished to pursue work flexibly but had his request rejected.

We are grateful to Employee Benefits for their analysis of the tribunal decision in the case of Pietzka v PricewaterhouseCoopers:

Erik Pietzka, who was a manager at accountancy firm PWC’s office in Cardiff, was told by his employer that pursuing the idea of flexible working would damage his career, while women in the same office had requests accepted. He raised the issue of flexible working in November 2010, seeking to work a three-day week because he was experiencing difficulties in his family life and wished to spend time with his daughter. Pietzka’s request was initially denied but it was later agreed that he could take one day off a week. The employment tribunal (ET) heard that the employee who dealt with Pietzka’s applications was of the belief that flexible working hours for family purposes were more suited to female workers than male workers, and “found it difficult to accept that the claimant would wish to put family issues above work”. During Pietzka’s time at the organisation, PWC won several awards for diversity and gender quality. It also has both men and women across the organisation that work part-time and flexible hours. According to the ET, however, this inclusive culture did not extend to one senior employee.

Employers have been legally obliged to consider both mothers’ and fathers’ requests for flexible working since 2002.

Employee on maternity leave selected for redundancy not offered alternative role

24 November 2014

An employer’s failure to offer an alternative role to an employee selected for redundancy while on maternity leave was adjudged to be automatically unfair.

We are grateful to Pinsent Masons for their report on the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) decision in the case of Sefton Borough Council v Wainwright:

The EAT ruled that an employer who had failed to offer a suitable alternative role to an employee selected for redundancy while on maternity leave was in breach of its obligation under Regulation 10 of the Maternity and Parental Leave Regulations 1999 ("Reg. 10"). Reg. 10 requires employers to offer a "suitable available vacancy" to women being made redundant whilst on maternity leave, and failure to comply leads to a finding of automatically unfair dismissal. The EAT further decided however, that it is not necessarily discriminatory for an employer to fail to comply with Reg. 10. In this instance, whilst the claimant had been treated unfavourably, the treatment was not "because of" her pregnancy or maternity leave, as is prescribed by the conditions for direct discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 ("EqA"). The claimant ("W") had been employed by a local authority ("the Council"), as Head of Overview and Scrutiny. Faced with having to make budget cuts, the Council initiated a redundancy and reorganization procedure in 2012. As part of the restructuring process, the Council proposed to abolish the roles of W and a male employee ("P"), and replace them with a combined role of Democratic Service Manager ("DSM").

In July 2012, W and P were notified that their positions were at risk of redundancy. At this point, W had commenced her maternity leave. In December 2012, the Council interviewed

CIPP Policy News Journal

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