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

    Testimonials

    4.80 Average

    346 Reviews

    Anonymous

    I dealt with Chris Hadrill who was very knowledgeable and professional. To provide some context, I raised a grievance with my Employer and with the help of Redmans received a settlement offer. I have secured alternative employment and would recommend Redmans overall. I was very satisfied with the service I received and would rate it as 5 star.

    Posted 7 hours ago

    Danielle T

    I contacted Redmans in regards to a situation I needed dealing with with my employer. This was resolved within a week of initial contact and I couldn’t be happier. Both Chris and Sacha were brilliant and couldn’t have been more helpful! Thanks guys!

    Posted 1 day ago

    Anonymous

    Quick proccessing of my Redundancy agreement.

    Posted 4 days ago

    Anonymous

    Fantastic support during a difficult time! Chris was fantastic, from the first conversation all the way through a difficult process. Chris supported me with a settlement agreement and his counsel was invaluable. The company I worked for tried to suggest some solicitors that they knew would simply rush through an agreement. Thankfully I found Chris and the Redmans team, what a relief! They fought for me and allowed me to keep my focus on the next stage in my career journey. If I go through anything similar in the future Redmans will be my first point of call!

    Posted 5 days ago

    Anonymous

    Quick responses to all inquiries. Supportive and provided top-notch service. Extremely pleased with the outcome and would recommend to anyone in need of legal advise.

    Posted 6 days ago

    Ben H

    Good, quick and informative service.

    Posted 1 week ago

    Edward W

    I liked Mel Chin's approach to my inctruction. She provided clear advice and explained things in a manner that I understand. I rated her service 5 out of 5.

    Posted 1 week ago

    James B

    Great and prompt service- would recommend and use again!

    Posted 1 week ago

    Emma L

    Excellent service. From start the team where efficient and helpful, the whole process was made easy on a very stressful and upsetting situation. They worked well to support my situation and negotiate. Would highly recommend. Thank you to Chris, Sacha and the team.

    Posted 1 week ago

    Brian H

    I must say, not seeing any of you and doing all on-line works very well. Very pleased with the service and would recommend you. Fantastic service. Many thanks Brian Haines

    Posted 1 week ago

    Sheenu A

    Professionals with excellent quality of work.

    Posted 2 weeks ago

    Maris T

    I recommend Redman's Solicitors. Chris was very helpful and informative. He provided a speedy and efficient service at a reasonable price.

    Posted 3 weeks ago

    Anonymous

    quick response, friendly staff, my issue was smoothly done. superb

    Posted 4 weeks ago

    Anonymous

    Overall I was very satisfied with the service I received. Right from making initial contact to being contacted by Chris Hadrill. He was easy to talk to, friendly and professional and gave sound advice. I would certainly use Redman's again. Thank you for all your help, Chris. I would rate my experience as 5 star.

    Posted 1 month ago

    Jane K

    4 stars for quality of advise. the team are good but it feels rushed sometimes and hard to contact.

    Posted 1 month ago

    Arabella B

    I am so grateful to Caroline Lewis at Redmans Solicitor’s for helping me with my Unfair Dismissal Case. I was seriously impressed how easy Redmans made the whole case, and am very happy with my Settlement. I have recommended your firm to at least 5 people in the last 3 months.. Thank you Caroline and everyone at Redmans. You are Brilliant .

    Posted 1 month ago

    Anonymous

    Highly professional and efficient service.

    Posted 1 month ago

    Tanya T

    I had the pleasure of Chris and Sacha’s experience with a work matter. They made me feel at ease with the process and explained everything thoroughly. Would happily recommend Redmans especially Chris and use them if needed I’m the future. Thank you!

    Posted 1 month ago

    Anonymous

    I used the services of Redmans solicitors and was a quick outstanding service I engaged them in a settlement agreement after been made redundant extremely professional at all that was done and would definetly use them again

    Posted 1 month ago

    Adrian A

    Spot on support, enough to get the matter at hand sorted. No beating around the bush, no nonsense - got the job done and we all moved on.

    Posted 1 month ago

    Mark Q

    Five Stars I was most impressed by the attention, courtesy, speed and above all, professionalism in dealing with my Settlement Agreement. I would certainly have no problem in recommending this firm to anyone in need of their services.

    Posted 1 month ago