An employee who was made redundant when Capita Customer Management refused to allow her to continue working part time following a restructure has won an unfair dismissal and indirect sex discrimination claim.
After returning from an extended period of leave, comprising maternity leave and a career break, Mrs McBride requested flexible working hours to help her manage the health of her children, one of whom had a rare condition.
The request was refused by her employer, which provides outsourced customer management services, because her role required her to be in the office Monday to Friday.
However, she was told about the possibility of a job share with someone returning from maternity leave which would allow her to work from Wednesday to Friday.
The intention was that McBride and the other employee would share tasks relating to a project, sharing the role of operations improvement manager.
Her manager, Mr Lovell, told the Sheffield employment tribunal that he had reservations about the job share before it began and believed there would be risks to the quality and efficiency of project delivery, problems with accountability, and continuity issues for internal and external stakeholders.
McBride said the job share began to be “diluted” in December 2017, a month after it began, when her manager began giving her and the other employee separate projects so there was no longer any shared responsibility.
A review of the team McBride worked on began and Lovell felt the team needed a flatter structure. He was of the view that the roles needed to be carried out on a full-time basis to ensure it could meet the requirements of a large client, moving from a structure with two part-time and one full-time staff to one with three full-time employees.
A new full-time operations improvement manager role was proposed and McBride and the employee she shared the role with were told they were at risk of redundancy.
McBride challenged her manager about the rationale behind the belief that part-time working or a job share could be successful in the new role. She felt the working arrangement had not been adequately tested and felt the reasoning for not considering part-time working had not been based on a reasonable benchmark.
She pointed out that no concerns had been raised about her performance or her ability to perform the role on a part-time basis, stating that she had been told she delivered more than full-time employees.
After several further meetings and appeals, McBride was put on notice of redundancy and her contract was terminated on 6 September 2018. The colleague sharing the role was also made redundant.
In its judgment published this week, the tribunal says the decision to prevent the role from being carried out by part-time or job-share staff was based on “unsubstantiated opinion” which her line manager had harboured from before the role began to be shared.
It found that making the job full-time had a “discriminatory effect” as it prevented certain staff from performing the role. The tribunal found McBride had been unfairly dismissed as the changes to the operations improvement manager role did not constitute redundancy.
“We do not consider that any such fine tuning of the way in which the role was conducted makes it work of a different kind. Accordingly we find that there was no redundancy situation in law with the result that that could not be a fair reason for dismissing the claimant,” judge Robert Little said.
The judgment did not say whether an award has been made.