EOC fears women on career breaks will lose rights

The
Equal Opportunities Commission has criticised employers which require women
taking career breaks in order to have children to resign, following an
employment tribunal ruling.

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

Jane
Unwin, of Shaftesbury, Dorset, had worked for Barclays for 20 years before
taking a two-year career break in 1998 to care for her daughter Emma, 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 company and ruled
that she cannot bring a case for unfair dismissal because she had not been in
work for the minimum 12 months required to make a claim.

A
spokesman for the EOC said that employers should allow employees to maintain
their employment contracts while taking career breaks.

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

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

The
EOC said that it was best practice for employers to allow women taking career
breaks to maintain their employment contracts.

But
Caroline Rouse, a spokesman 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 arrangements against
other industries leads us to believe our family friendly polices are among the
best in the industry."

Unwin
is still claiming breach of contract and discrimination, which do not require
one year’s service before a claim can be made.

By Ben Willmott

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