Lisa Ward is employed by the Prison Service as an interventions facilitator, working with prisoners to reduce re-offending. Her first child was born in December 2012 and she asked to return to work part time. Despite agreement from her line manager and the senior colleagues she would be working with, the employer insisted she came back full time.
Prospect supported Lisa in the internal appeal and when that failed, presented a claim of indirect sex discrimination to the employment tribunal. The employers vigorously defended the claim. Prospect represented Lisa at a preliminary hearing and prepared the case for a three-day hearing in the Leicester tribunal in October.
Negotiator Andy Bye presented a witness statement with statistical evidence to emphasise the discriminatory impact of the employer’s position. Prospect instructed a specialist discrimination law barrister, Nicola Braganza, to represent Lisa at the hearing.
On the morning of the hearing’s first day the Prison Service, at last, agreed Lisa could work the hours she wanted to and the case was settled.
“The refusal to allow a woman to reduce her hours for childcare reasons is a classic case of indirect sex discrimination” said Marion Scovell, Prospect legal officer.
“It is likely to be unlawful discrimination unless the employer can objectively justify its decision. We always believed Lisa had a strong case.
“Sadly this case is not unique and Prospect has had to argue similar points for other members, though most cases have been resolved more quickly.”
Lisa thanked Prospect and said: “I hope that more working mothers will have the courage to fight for a better work-life balance and employers will take the time to look into each case more thoroughly, rather than simply dismissing them without any consideration.”
Andy Bye said: “This important result again highlights the importance of union membership. Over 60% of our members in the Prison Service are female and many wish to work part-time after maternity leave. Lisa’s case demonstrates that managers must give proper consideration to such requests which should only be refused for sound business reasons.”
Prospect legal officer Marion Scovell added: “I really admire Lisa for fighting against this injustice. I am delighted she can now return to work on the hours and working pattern that suit her and her family.”