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In the case of Vickers v Hill Biscuits Ltd & Mr Ravenscroft 2405509/2016 the Employment Tribunal found that a manager of a biscuit factory had sexually harassed a female employee, and awarded the employee compensation of £10,000.

Factual background in Vickers v Hill Biscuits Ltd & Mr Ravenscroft

Hill Biscuits Limited is a company that manufactures biscuits, and its factory operates at Smith Street, Ashton-under-Lyne. It employs between 300 and 400 people. Mr Ravenscroft is a manager at Hill Biscuit’s factory.

Ms Vickers commenced employment with Hill Biscuits in September 2010 as a production operator. Ms Vickers was born in 1975 and in 2015 she was therefore 40. Ms Vickers was given a birthday card on her 40th birthday by a colleague and she subsequently discovered that Mr Ravenscroft had written in the card: “All the best on your 50th Dave Rave” and, overleaf on the inside of the card, “Lisa it’s your birthday, I bet you’re thrilled to bits, but not as much as I would be if I could feel your t*ts!!!”

Ms Vickers also alleged that she had been subjected to the following conduct at Hill Biscuits:

  • That she had been told by a manager to ask Asian and/or Polish workers to speak English, yet when Ms Vickers did as she was told she was reprimanded by the same manager for doing so;
  • That on 1 or 2 August 2016 Mr Ravenscroft stated to Ms Vickers when she was bending down tying her shoes: “Look at the fucking arse on that.” Ms Vickers stated “behave Dave”

Ms Vickers resigned in March 2017 and made claims against Hill Biscuits and Mr Ravenscroft for constructive dismissal, sexual harassment, race-related harassment, and victimisation.

The Employment Tribunal’s decision

The Employment Tribunal held that Mr Ravenscroft’s on 1 or 2 August 2016, and in writing in Ms Vickers’ birthday card, constituted sexual harassment: it was unwanted conduct of a sexual nature which had the purpose or effect of creating an offensive environment for Ms Vickers or of violating her dignity.

The Tribunal found against Ms Vickers in respect of her claims of race-related harassment, victimisation, and constructive dismissal. In respect of the race-related harassment claim, the Tribunal found that Ms Vickers was not ‘taken to task’ by her managers for instructing Asian and/or Polish workers to speak in English on the factory floor. The Tribunal also found, in respect of the victimisation claim, that Ms Vickers’ complaint of harassment was not the reason why she was subjected to a disciplinary, and that the real reason for the disciplinary was aggressive behaviour and abuse language used by Ms Vickers. With regards to the constructive dismissal claim, the Tribunal found that Ms Vickers had not resigned because of the sexual harassment she had been submitted to, but because she would prefer to work for another employer.

The Employment Tribunal awarded Ms Vickers £10,000 as compensation for injury to feelings as a result of the sexual harassment claim.

Our solicitors’ comments

Chris Hadrill, a specialist employment solicitor at Redmans, commented on the case: “This case shows that employers should take active steps to subject staff to workplace equality training and to take any further reasonably practicable steps to ensure that staff are aware of their obligations in respect of equality and diversity – a failure to do so could potentially lead to a successful Employment Tribunal claim against the business.”

The Employment Tribunal’s decision can be found 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.

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