Want to talk to an expert employment law solicitor?

You'll receive a callback from a specialist within an hour

In the case of Sefton Borough Council v Wainwright UKEAT/0168/14/LA the Employment Appeal Tribunal (“EAT”) held that a finding that an employee had been discriminated against must be remitted as the Tribunal had not considered the “reason why” the potentially discriminatory action had occurred.

The factual background in Sefton Borough Council v Wainwright

Ms Wainwright was employed by Sefton Borough Council (“the Council”) as Head of Overview and Scrutiny. From November 2010 the Council was planning redundancies as it was faced with having to make budget cuts, and engaged in a management restructure in 2011 in order to make the necessary savings.

As part of the restructuring a new position of Democratic Service Manager (“DSM”) was created, a role which combined Ms Wainwright’s role with that of Head of Member Services (a post held by a Mr Pierce). Mr Pierce and Ms Wainwright were informed that their positions were at risk of redundancy in July 2012, by which time Ms Wainwright had commenced maternity leave.

A redundancy selection process was undertaken and both Ms Wainwright and Mr Pierce were interviewed in December 2012 for the position of DSM. The Council came to the conclusion that Mr Pierce was the better candidate for the role and he was offered the DSM position in December 2012.

In January 2013 Ms Wainwright was given three months’ notice of termination (for the reason of redundancy). She was also told that she had the right to be redeployed in the organisation but she did not apply for any positions. Her employment terminated in April 2013.

Ms Wainwright subsequently made claims to the Employment Tribunal under regulation 10 of the Maternity and Paternity Leave Regulations 1999 (“the Regulation 10 Claim”), section 18 of the Equality Act 2010 (“the Section 18 Claim”), and section 99 of the Employment Rights Act 1996, arguing that she had been discriminated against and automatically unfairly dismissed by the failure to award her the DSM position.

The decision of the Employment Tribunal

The Employment Tribunal held that the Regulation 10 Claim succeeded – under regulation 10 Ms Wainwright should have been offered the DSM position without an interview as she was on maternity leave and it was a suitable alternative vacancy. Failing to offer her the DSM was therefore a breach of regulation 10, regardless of the Council’s view of who the better candidate was. The Tribunal also held that, given that the Regulation 10 Claim succeeded, the automatic unfair dismissal claim and Section 18 Claims must succeed too.

The Council appealed the Employment Tribunal’s decision on the following bases:

  1. That the Tribunal had incorrectly equated the Section 18 Claim with the Regulation 10 Claim, and that the tests for these claims were substantially different (“Ground 1”)
  2. That the Tribunal had erred in finding that regulation 10 applied before interviews for the DSM role had taken place (“Ground 2”)

The decision of the Employment Appeal Tribunal

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (“EAT”) held that Ground 2 of the appeal should be dismissed, as the Tribunal was entitled to find that a redundancy situation had existed once that it had decided that the two positions would be deleted from the structure and replaced by one – if not provided with a suitable alternative vacancy both employees’ positions would be terminated by reason of redundancy, save that either employee could avoid being dismissed by being offered the DSM vacancy.

The EAT upheld the Ground 1 appeal, holding that the fact that regulation 10 had been breached did not inherently mean that Ms Wainwright had been directly discriminated against because of her period of maternity leave – the Tribunal should not have assumed that the Section 18 Claim was made out by virtue of the Regulation 10 Claim succeeding, and it should have asked itself what was the “reason why” Ms Wainwright was treated in the way she was.

Our lawyers’ comments

Chris Hadrill, a specialist employment solicitor, commented: “This case shows that, when making employees who are pregnant or on maternity leave redundant, employers should take particular care to ensure that such employees are given ‘first choice’ for any vacancies in their organisation which are both suitable and available – a failure to do so may lead to both claims for discrimination and automatic unfair dismissal being made against them.”

Please find the link to the judgment on Bailii here.

About

Redmans Employment Team deal with employment matters for both employers and employees, including drafting employment contracts and policies, advising employers and employees on compromise agreements, handling day-to-day HR issues, advising on restructures, and handling Employment Tribunal cases for both employers and employees Call 020 3397 3603 to speak to one of the members of our employment team or email us on enquiries@redmans.co.uk. Redmans have offices in Richmond, Chiswick, Hammersmith, Fulham, Kingston, Wimbledon, Ealing, Kings Cross and Marylebone (meetings strictly by appointment only).

Want to talk to an expert employment law solicitor?

You'll receive a callback from a specialist within an hour

Share →

One Response to Sefton Borough Council v Wainwright – Employment Tribunal must always look at “reason why” action had been taken

  1. […] against by not being given priority for suitable alternative vacancy at employer – read more (see this link for the case transcript on […]

Our awards

Request a callback

Your name

Your email

Your telephone number

Contact us

Please feel free to discuss your own position and concerns. Contact your nearest office on:

T: 020 3397 3603
E: enquiries@redmans.co.uk
W: www.redmans.co.uk

Testimonials

4.73 Average

92 Reviews

Anonymous

Redmans Solicitors provided a professional and prompt service in dealing with my settlement agreement. They used their experience to negotiate a better deal for which I am grateful for. I highly recommend their services.

Posted 5 hours ago

Cheryl R

Very efficient and friendly lawyers. I have used Redmans twice now and Chris Hadrill has been amazing to work with. Would highly recommend Redmans.

Posted 5 hours ago

Anonymous

I found Redmans Solicitors to be extremely professional, dealing with my questions and concerns quickly and in detail. I would have no hesitation in recommending Redmans Solicitors to anyone.

Posted 7 hours ago

Anonymous

I requested Redmans services on a redundancy case. Both Chris and Rana were great, thoughtful, very professional and responded quickly. They were very clear throughout the entire process, regarding the process and my options and I couldn't feel I had better legal advice for my case. Overall excellent service and I would certainly recommend and use their services again.

Posted 3 days ago

Anonymous

Responsive, patient, thorough and personable - an excellent service.

Posted 1 week ago

Anonymous

The team at Redmans, Chris Hadrill and Sacha Barrett were always very helpful and had expert knowledge to assist me during my employment law matter, I would not hesitate to recommend them to all!

Posted 1 week ago

Arun T

Chris was punctual, attentive and accurate. He answered my questions with clarity and avoided dubiosity. I would recommend him to anyone seeking legal advice within his remit.

Posted 1 week ago

Yulian Z

Great service

Posted 1 week ago

Anonymous

Excellent, professional service and a speedy resolution. Many thanks

Posted 1 week ago

Taral P

Sacha and Chris were both very helpful in closing out my matter. Sacha was very clear in helping me understanding the documents I needed reviewing, providing a professional service throughout.

Posted 1 week ago

Anonymous

Really pleased with the swift and professional service from Redmans. They provided very clear advice and helped conclude my matter with the minimum of stress or delay.

Posted 1 week ago

Matthew L

Redmans were very quick to respond to my initial enquiry, and provided me with a very effective and efficient service, generating a most satisfactory outcome. I would definitely use them again if the need arose.

Posted 1 week ago

Anonymous

First rate service. Warm and friendly whilst exceptionally efficient at the same time. I would highly recommend them.

Posted 1 week ago

Anonymous

Professional and helpful. Thorough and supportive.

Posted 1 week ago

Richard A

Excellent service, prompt replies, great advice

Posted 1 week ago

Anonymous

Very professional services

Posted 1 week ago

Margaret

Redmans Solicitors took a lot of the worry away and were very thoughtful and meticulous in their dealings with my case , thank you very mush , great service and a great job

Posted 1 month ago

Mark B

Prompt efficient service. Hourly, and part thereof, billing got a bit stressful at times - as opposed to flat fee - made me think twice about sending an email or making a quick call when I had a query because it would have eaten up minutes from my budget. But happy with the legal service I received overall and would recommend.

Posted 1 month ago

Anonymous

Chris Hadrill has provided a truly wonderful service and was willing to lend his support and expertise at a time when other solicitors, only wanted to discuss their fees! A clear thinking and down to earth professional, Chris can be trusted to listen carefully to your matter, cut through the fog, and advise you on the best (and most realistic) way forward, saving you time, money and heartache. It will be helpful if you first get your ducks in a row in terms of documents / evidence etc. and then contact Chris, (that’s what we did) as this will help your matter to be dealt with faster. The more organised and together you are the more successful you will be. You'll be fine with Chris, I highly recommend him. Good luck!

Posted 1 month ago

Richard v

Excellent Service

Posted 1 month ago

Anonymous

Very happy from service received. Highly recommend

Posted 1 month ago