ET Awards £90K to Mum Who Had Job Offer Withdrawn and Says a Man Wouldn’t Be Asked His Kids’ Age

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Photo Credits: Andrew Neel via Unsplash

Mrs F Lee was preparing to start her new role with R&F Properties, only to have her job offer withdrawn after the company’s vice-president found out the ages of her children. An Employment Tribunal held that this constituted sex discrimination and awarded her over £90,000 in compensation.

Read on to learn more about the case and how employers can help to accommodate their employees’ childcare responsibilities.

What Exactly Happened?

Mrs F Lee applied for the position of real estate marketing manager with a Chinese company called R&F Properties in 2022. She attended two interviews and was offered the job in September 2022, with a commencement date in November 2022.

Upon highlighting her requirement for flexible working, Mrs Lee was told by the company’s HR manager that this could be accommodated following the completion of a probationary period. Mrs Lee consequently resigned from her former role on this basis.

Working Mum Asked About Kids’ Age and Then Has Job Offer Withdrawn

On 20 October, Mrs Lee attended a meeting via Microsoft Teams with R&F Properties’ head of overseas development, Mrs Zhu. At the start of the meeting, Mrs Lee explained that she would need to leave on time to care for her children.

The meeting was predominantly business-focused, relating to Mrs Lee’s previous experience, projects, and clients. At the end of the meeting, however, Mrs Zhu asked about the ages of Mrs Lee’s children and Mrs Lee responded that they were four years and almost one year.

Read: Female Worker Wins Sex Discrimination Claim Over Pretty Woman Comment

On 26 October, Mrs Lee had her job offer withdrawn by the company. R&F Properties stated that this was due to a company-wide recruitment freeze and that Mrs Lee would have been made redundant if the offer had progressed. However, Mrs Lee felt that she had had the job offer withdrawn because of the ages of her children.

She brought a claim of sex discrimination against R&F Properties, asserting that she had been treated less favourably because of her gender.

What Did the Employment Tribunal Say?

F Lee’s claim was heard by Judge Caroline Musgrave-Cohen. After considering the evidence in the case, the tribunal held that Mrs Lee’s job offer was withdrawn due to her gender and childcare responsibilities.

The tribunal highlighted the fact that it was unlikely that a man would have been asked the same questions regarding his children’s ages. As such, the questions about F Lee’s children’s ages and having the job offer withdrawn constituted sex discrimination.

A Male Candidate Wouldn’t Have Job Offer Withdrawn Because of His Kids’ Age, Judge Says

The Employment Tribunal dismissed R&F Properties’ assertions regarding potential redundancies within the company. A letter addressing this possibility was dated September 2022, before Mrs Lee’s job offer was withdrawn, and more candidates were recruited into the sales team in February 2023.

Judge Caroline Musgrave-Cohen found that Mrs Lee had her job offer withdrawn because of her gender. She further highlights that Mrs Zhu would have had the power to authorise this within the company. She stated that Mrs Zhu asked the claimant about her kids’ age out of the blue and added, “As set out previously, we do not consider she would have asked a man this question.”

Ms Musgrave-Cohen added: “We consider that the claimant’s childcare responsibilities were important to Mrs Zhu’s assessment of the claimant’s suitability for the role.”

The tribunal ordered R&F Properties to pay Mrs Lee a sum of £91,597.82. This award covered compensation for injury to feelings and financial loss comprising lost earnings, pension, and nursery costs.

Accommodating Employees’ Childcare Responsibilities

There are numerous ways in which employers can help to accommodate their employees’ childcare responsibilities. Such an approach will help to achieve a positive workplace culture, which will in turn promote employee wellbeing and boost productivity levels.

Right to Request Flexible Working Arrangements: Like all employees, those with childcare responsibilities have the right to request flexible working arrangements. For parents, these might include alterations to work hours to accommodate school runs and/or hybrid working to facilitate childcare provision, for example. Under UK law, employers are obliged to consider such requests and may only refuse them for prescribed reasons.

Parental Leave: Employers are also required to honour employees’ entitlement to parental leave under UK law. This applies to employees who have worked for their employer for at least one year and who have a child under the age of 18 years.

Such employees are entitled to a total of 18 weeks of unpaid leave per child, up to a maximum of four weeks per year. The employee must provide at least 21 days’ notice if they wish to take parental leave.

Read: Gap Between Working Parents Needs and Employer Support Continues to Grow

Unpaid Leave: Similarly, employees are entitled under UK law to unpaid leave to deal with any emergency involving their children. In such circumstances, employees should explain the nature of the emergency and why they are the best person to handle it. Employees should also keep their employer updated on developments and return to work as soon as possible.

The employment law experts at Redmans Solicitors have extensive experience in handling sex discrimination claims. If you are concerned that you have been discriminated against on the basis of your gender, contact one of our friendly team today for advice.

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