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

4.76 Average

204 Reviews

Anonymous

Excellent advice and customer service.

Posted 1 month ago

Aneet G

I would definitely recommend Redmans. Very impressed with service provided. They were extremely proactive in handling my case which made things easier for me. Provided sound advice and resolution. Special credit for this goes to Chris who dealt with my case with great determination and consideration.

Posted 1 month ago

Fern M

Very efficient and friendly

Posted 1 month ago

Neville S

A professional and friendly service, which I would highly recommend.

Posted 1 month ago

Daniel T

Extremely helpful and made a bad situation much more manageable. Where other solicitors seemed disinterested in my situation Redmans immediately made me feel like it was a team effort to achieve a more favourable outcome

Posted 1 month ago

Paul T

Excellent, quick and informative. Chris was a real star and gave me confidence during the uncertainty if a redundancy settlement.

Posted 1 month ago

Marina E

Felt in very capable hands was listened to and given excellent advice. Would not hesitate to recomend and use again if needed.

Posted 1 month ago

Rosa B

Fabulous service all round.

Posted 1 month ago

Anonymous

Redmans were quick to respond to my enquiry and dealt with my case professionally and personably. I received sound advice and was put at ease by Chris Hadrill, Partner.

Posted 1 month ago

Alkhas K

Excellent service.

Posted 1 month ago

Mathias G

Contacted them regarding my end of employment agreement. Chris Hadrill dealt with it and was done and handed back to employer same day more than happy with there service.

Posted 2 months ago

Mark W

Most professional from start to finish offering very a personal service. Most impressive and quick when dealing with the matters in hand.

Posted 3 months ago

Anonymous

Posted 3 months ago

submit

I am very glad I came across Redmans Solicitors. Fantastic service!

Posted 3 months ago

Anonymous

Fantastic communication, always happy to answer queries, highly recommended.

Posted 3 months ago

Wavenie B

They were very straight to the point, friendly and understanding people. I felt they had my best interest. They were easy to get hold of, replies were almost instant. 5/5 for customer service

Posted 3 months ago

Christina P

Caroline was fantastic to work with - extremely knowledgeable, supportive, thorough and honest. I definitely recommend Redmans!

Posted 3 months ago

Anonymous

Very well done and fast support. Professional and reliable. Highly recommended!

Posted 3 months ago

Helene L

They were very knowledgable in the respected area in terms of change in law/regulations that is crucial for the clients who are seeking for legal arvice.

Posted 3 months ago

Sara R

Very helpful and wonderful advice

Posted 3 months ago

Marie D

very good service all digitalised

Posted 3 months ago