Want to talk to an expert employment law solicitor?

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

An interesting case regarding discrimination law made its way into the spotlight last week. The Employment Appeal Tribunal handed down its judgment in Hawkins v Atex Group, a case of marital discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. The primary issue in this case was causation and

  1. The law relating to marital discrimination under the Equality Act 2010
  2. The facts in the particular case
  3. Conclusion of the Employment Appeal Tribunal
  4. Our thoughts

The law relating to marital discrimination under the Equality Act 2010

Under s.8 of the Equality Act 2010 discrimination in the workplace (as we’re looking at this from an employment law context) because someone is married or in a civil partnership is prohibited. In a “direct discrimination” context, workers and employees can’t be subjected to less favourable treatment because they’re married or in a civil partnership. Examples of less favourable treatment include dismissal, failure to promote, demotion, unequal contract terms etc. In a case of direct marital or civil partnership discrimination the treatment afforded to the Claimant (the person discriminated against) must be compared with another actual or hypothetical worker or employee in a similar position (i.e. same job or duties etc.). The important point to note at this stage is that causation is often a critical factor in potential or actual discrimination cases. The treatment afforded to the Claimant must have been because they’re married or in a civil partnership and not for any other reason (i.e. a personality clash). The reason for discrimination in any particular situation can often be difficult to entangle – such issues are often highly emotionally charged. The Claimant may have a reasonable belief that they are being discriminated against because they’re married but this reasonable belief can be mistaken. The issue of causation was the critical one in Hawkins v Atex Group, which we’ll now have a brief look at.

The facts in Hawkins v Atex Group

Mrs Hawkins started working at the Atex Group in early 2010. She was dismissed before she had worked for Atex Group for a year as her employment was in breach of an instruction to her husband, who was Chief Executive at Atex Group at the time. Mrs Hawkins was therefore unable to claim unfair dismissal under s.94(1) of the Employment Rights Act 1996. However, she submitted a claim to the Employment Tribunal of direct sex discrimination on the grounds that she was married under s.3 of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975. This was presumably both because she felt that her treatment was discriminatory and because this gave her a pathway to claim automatic unfair dismissal under the Employment Rights Act (which has no qualifying period).

The Employment Tribunal struck Mrs Hawkins’ claim out on the basis that the treatment afforded to her was not on the grounds of her marriage but because of who she was married to – an important distinction. It was reasoned that Mrs Hawkins had no reasonable prospects of succeeding in her claim in the Employment Tribunal.

Mrs Hawkins appealed this decision and the case went before the Employment Appeal Tribunal.

The conclusion of the Employment Appeal Tribunal

The Employment Appeal Tribunal dismissed Mrs Hawkins’ claim. It held that:

  • The less favourable treatment (the discrimination) must be on the basis of the marriage itself rather than because of whom the Claimant is married to; and
  • Mr Justice Underhill believed that the Claimant did not have a reasonable prospect of success in proving on the balance of probabilities that the reason for her treatment was marriage-related

Our thoughts

This case is interesting for two reasons:

  1. Causation in marriage discrimination cases
  2. Conflicting case law

Causation in marriage discrimination cases

Although it must be stated that this case was submitted prior to the Equality Act 2010 coming into force, this case offers an interesting analysis of causation in discrimination cases. Under the Equality Act 2010 the discrimination complained of must be because of a person’s protected characteristic (i.e. age, sex, the fact that they’re married etc.) rather than any other reason.

Conflicting case law

This case directly goes against what the Employment Appeal Tribunal decided in Dunn v Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management (which we’ll look at in a future post). This was a case with similar facts where it was found that the Claimant had been treated less favourably than other employees because she was married to another employee (who was also in a dispute with her employer). The Employment Appeal suggested that the judgment of Dunn was incorrect, a suggestion with which we agree.

About Chris Hadrill

Chris is a specialist employment lawyer at Redmans. He specialises in contentious and non-contentious employment matters, including breach of contract claims, compromise agreements and Employment Tribunal cases. He writes on employment law matters on a variety of websites, including Direct 2 Lawyers, Lawontheweb.co.uk, LegalVoice, the Justice Gap and his own blog. Contact Chris by emailing him at chadrill@redmans.co.uk

Want to talk to an expert employment law solicitor?

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

Share →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 

Our awards

Request a callback

    Your first name (required)

    Your last name (required)

    Your email (required)

    Your telephone number (required)

    Brief details of your enquiry

    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

    4.78 Average

    269 Reviews

    Sue W

    The people at Redmans talk to you with respect and make you feel like they take your situation personal. They clearly care and are extremely professional. I have recommended Redmans to many people.

    Posted 5 days ago

    Anonymous

    Redmans Solicitors were consistently prompt, efficient and professional from the start of my reaching out to them for support in relation to contentious negotiations of an employment matter that continued for almost two months resulting in a positive settlement agreement. Chris Hadrill was diligent, thorough, empathetic and objective in his advice and guidance, showing deep and broad knowledge of the law and legal processes plus extensive practical experience in handling complex matters, resulting in clear and pragmatic advice in ambiguous circumstances that resulted in a very good outcome. I fully recommend Chris Hadrill and Redmans Solicitors! I have made this review anonymous purely because of the confidentiality obligations in the settlement agreement concluded.

    Posted 1 month ago

    Michelle W

    Redmans solicitors provided legal support and advice for a settlement agreement. Excellent customer service, very professional. The senior associate solicitor kept me updated throughout the process, showed empathy and the agreement was signed-off / completed within the agreed timeline.

    Posted 1 month ago

    Mark W

    Redmans Solicitors were extremely professional and helpful! Chris Hadrill handled my case and was an amazing help! His guidance, advice and understanding to my redundancy settlement were always clear, concise and very helpful and I am very grateful to him, and glad I found Redmans to help with my settlement. I highly recommend them!

    Posted 1 month ago

    Alison M

    Very happy with the advice I received

    Posted 1 month ago

    Margaret A

    I found everything about the company to be extremely professional and efficient. During my initial contact with Chris, he listened well and was reassuring, so I felt confident that my case would be well handled. Caroline was excellent at explaining all the legal points and answering my questions, as well as being very supportive and understanding throughout the process. I would definitely recommend this company.

    Posted 1 month ago

    Sanja K

    Very efficient and professional service.

    Posted 1 month ago

    Anonymous

    I found the advice I was given by Redmans Solicitors to be clear and useful and found the solicitor on my case to be both knowledgeable and approachable.

    Posted 1 month ago

    Karen T

    Great service. Thank you.

    Posted 1 month ago

    Anonymous

    Excellent service from Chris & Mel Chin. The best outcome was achieved from the redundancy process. They were extremely thorough, listened carefully and acted swiftly on my behalf. I highly recommend Redmans Solicitors

    Posted 1 month ago

    Shanine M

    Excellent service, thank you so much!

    Posted 1 month ago

    Anonymous

    I found Caroline and Chris very Helpful and provided excellent service. Caroline especially provided great legal advice and made me feel at ease with the whole process. I would highly recommend them. Thank you!

    Posted 1 month ago

    Gayle B

    Excellent company very professional would definitely recommend

    Posted 1 month ago

    Alex K

    Redmans provided an excellent service, timely and effective. Will definitely recommend.

    Posted 1 month ago

    Anonymous

    Great job done on my employment law

    Posted 1 month ago

    Dominica S

    Caroline & Chris were very prompt and efficient.Very happy with the service and will definitely recommend Redmans Solicitor to everyone !

    Posted 2 months ago

    Sandra K

    If you are looking for a group of solicitors who are Professional, Caring and on point, then look no futher than Redmans. I was literally hand held through out my case. Can not find fault with this company, very happy with the result and the service i received. Would highly recommend Redmans.

    Posted 2 months ago

    Anonymous

    I found dealing with Redmans a pleasure. I got to speak to someone quickly, the advice was profferred promplty and the service was not 'pushy'. In addition, the administration was excellent. What more could you ask for?

    Posted 2 months ago

    ALISDAIR L

    Redmans did a brilliant job regarding my redundancy agreement. I miss read an extra charge which wasnt the case so doing a new review to clarify. I would recommend Redmans for any employment law issues you may have.

    Posted 2 months ago

    Christos G

    Great legal advice and quick correspondence. Very supportive and helpful through the entire process. Thank you Redmans!

    Posted 2 months ago

    Anonymous

    Chris Hadrill advised me on a redundancy settlement agreement. He was very responsive, easy to deal with and gave me good advice at a stressful time.

    Posted 2 months ago