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Maddy Christopher


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Tribunal awards £90,000 to mother in landmark sex discrimination case

A mother of two receives £90,000 through tribunal when her offer of employment is rescinded after asking the ages of her children.
cars parked in front of brown building: employment tribunal

A recent employment tribunal in London has set a significant precedent for HR professionals and organisations alike. A mother of two was awarded £90,000 in a sex discrimination case after her job offer was rescinded when the prospective employer discovered the ages of her children.

The case involved a Chinese real estate company operating in London. The mother, a highly qualified marketing manager, had successfully navigated the interview process and received a formal job offer. 

However, during a subsequent conversation, the company inquired about her children’s ages and promptly withdrew the offer upon learning that she had young children.

Key details of the case

The tribunal found that the company’s decision was rooted in discriminatory assumptions about her ability to manage work and childcare responsibilities. The tribunal’s ruling underscored that the employer’s actions were not only prejudiced but also legally indefensible under UK employment law.

Personnel Today reported that the tribunal emphasised the detrimental impact of such discriminatory practices on women’s careers and financial stability. 

The judgment pointed out that the company’s rationale was based on stereotypical views that women with young children are less capable of fulfilling professional duties, which is a clear violation of the Equality Act 2010.

Broader implications for HR policies

This case highlights several critical areas where HR professionals must exercise vigilance and ensure compliance:

  1. Non-discriminatory interview practices

Questions about family status, including the ages of children, should be avoided during interviews and hiring processes. These questions can lead to biased decision-making and are generally deemed inappropriate and illegal.

  1. Training for line managers

As frontline enforcers of company policies, line managers need thorough training to understand and implement non-discriminatory practices. This includes recognising unconscious biases and ensuring that decisions are made based on merit and qualifications rather than personal circumstances.

  1. Creating an inclusive workplace

Companies must cultivate a culture that supports all employees, regardless of their personal circumstances. This involves implementing flexible working arrangements and providing robust support systems that enable parents to balance their professional and personal lives effectively.

  1. Legal compliance 

Regular audits of hiring practices and policies can help ensure compliance with employment laws and regulations. Organisations should stay updated with legal precedents and adjust their policies accordingly to mitigate risks of discrimination claims.

Practical steps forward

For HR departments, this case serves as a reminder to review and possibly revise current policies. Here are some practical steps:

  • Review job descriptions: Ensure that job descriptions and requirements are free from biased language that could deter candidates with caregiving responsibilities.
  • Conduct bias training: Regular training sessions for HR personnel and managers on unconscious bias and equitable treatment can foster a more inclusive workplace.
  • Implement supportive policies: Policies such as flexible working hours, remote work options, and parental leave can support employees in managing their work-life balance.
  • Establish clear reporting mechanisms: Having a clear, confidential process for reporting discrimination can help address issues promptly and effectively.

The message is simple

The outcome of this tribunal is a critical lesson for HR professionals and organisations, emphasising the importance of fair and unbiased hiring practices. 

The message is loud and clear. Make your culture inclusive and follow legal standards if you want to avoid costly legal battles and attract and retain a skilled workforce. 

This landmark ruling reinforces the need for continual vigilance and proactive measures to eliminate discrimination in the workplace.

Interested in this topic? Read Maternity discrimination: How to beat the stigma

Author Profile Picture
Maddy Christopher

Deputy Editor

Read more from Maddy Christopher