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Hacker Young settle sex discrimination claim

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A secretary who worked for leading accountancy firm Hacker Young has settled her sex discrimination claim against her former employer for £5,000, the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) has announced today. While on maternity leave, Elizabeth Nunn’s part-time post was filled on a full-time basis and she claims she was not offered a suitable alternative.

Ms Nunn had worked at Hacker Young in London since April 1996. After the birth of her first child, who has special needs, her employer agreed to allow her to work on a part-time basis. However, when she wanted to return to work after having a second child she claims she was told there was no part-time position for her to return to.

Julie Mellor, Chair of the EOC commented:

“This case is a typical example of how a lack of flexibility about working hours remains a major stumbling block, both for employers, who end up losing valuable skilled staff, and for employees, particularly parents trying to balance home and work.

“The proposed right to ask to change your working hours, which is being considered by the Work and Parents Taskforce will give employees far greater confidence to ask to work part time, and it will mean employers know they have to take requests seriously. We hope the taskforce will be able to devise a framework that enables employers to deal effectively with this kind of request in the workplace.”

Shortly before she was due to return to work after her maternity leave Ms Nunn claims her employer informed her that there was no work station for her to come back to and that she would have to wait a further two months before returning to work. She was not paid during this period as her employer alleged it was regarded as parental leave. Ms Nunn claims she had never discussed or requested parental leave with her employer.

Two months later Ms Nunn claims Hacker Young contacted her again, to say there was no part-time position for her but that there was a full-time post in another department. Because Ms Nunn has to accompany her son to regular physiotherapy and psychologist appointments she was unable to take up the offer. Finally Ms Nunn claims she was offered a data inputting role, reducing her duties to a one to two day period. As a result of the change in contractual terms and the offer of an unsuitable post Ms Nunn felt she had no option but to resign.

Ms Nunn said: “I am happy the case has settled and that Hacker Young have agreed to review their equal opportunities policy. I hope employees requesting part time hours in the future will not have to go through what I did.”

As part of the settlement Hacker Young has agreed to review its equal opportunities and maternity policies and procedures, and to obtain the EOC’s advice on any necessary amendments.

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