EOC calls for contract rights when taking career breaks

The Equal Opportunities Commission has criticised employers that require
women to resign when taking a career break to have children, following an
employment tribunal ruling.

In the ruling a former Barclays employee, who took a two-year career break,
was told she could not bring a case of unfair dismissal against the bank
because she did not have continuity of service.

Jane Unwin from Shaftsbury, Dorset had worked for Barclays for 20 years
before taking a two-year career break in 1998 to care for her daughter, now
aged three.

She returned to work in November last year but resigned within months in a
dispute over her new job.

The employment tribunal disregarded her previous service with the bank and
ruled that she could not bring a case for unfair dismissal because she had not
been in work for the minimum 12 months required to make a claim.

An EOC spokeswoman said employers should allow staff to maintain their
employment contracts while taking career breaks as best practice.

She said, "We are concerned that women who take career breaks to have
children are being forced to resign and lose their employment rights. We have
had complaints about this.

"We would like to see women given the guaranteed right to work on the
same basis as before the career break."

But Caroline Rouse, a spokeswoman for Barclays, said it was standard
practice for employers to ask their staff to resign when taking career breaks.

She added, "Our benchmarking of our maternity and career break
arrangement against other industries leads us to believe our family-friendly
polices are among the best."

Unwin is still claiming breach of contract and sex discrimination, which
don’t require a year’s service before a claim can be made.


By Ben Willmott

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