Beauty therapist wins £18k after unfair dismissal from Carlisle health club
A beauty therapist who was dismissed from her job at a Carlisle health club because child care needs stopped her working weekends has won an employment tribunal payout of £18,000.
Emma Holt successfully proved that she was unfairly dismissed from Bannatyne Fitness Limited.
The tribunal also ruled that Ms Holt suffered sex discrimination because her bosses were insisting that she switch her working pattern to include weekends, despite her saying she was unable to get childcare for her son.
In a written judgement, the tribunal panel outlined how throughout almost a decade working at the Kingstown Road health centre – both when it was run by Living Well and later as Bannatyne Limited – Ms Holt worked weekends only in exception circumstances, such as to cover for sick colleagues.
The tribunal found that Saturdays and Sundays were not included in her normal working pattern, and none of her colleagues complained about this.
At a hearing in Carlisle Ms Holt said in early 2016 senior managers at Bannatyne Fitness tried to impose weekend working and when she refused she was dismissed – though the firm claimed it was a redundancy.
Though the firm admitted she was unfairly dismissed it did not accept that requiring her to work weekends amounted to sex discrimination.
When the weekend working request was first made, Ms Holt – a single parent with a school age son - made it clear that she could not do that because she had to look after her son on Saturdays and Sundays and had nobody else to do that.
She told her bosses: “My personal life doesn't allow me to work weekends.
“I have always given 150 per cent in this company and I have always run the spa like it is my own. Whatever days I am in they get my full attention and I have put in extra time when needed in the past.
“I am not trying to be difficult with this.
“I just can't set days due to my childcare. I fully understand where the business is coming from. I have no objections to working weekends but I just can't get childcare that my son will go to.”
In a later statement, when the firm was again insisting she should work weekends, Ms Holt told managers: “No. I can't do these hours. If you put me on the rota for weekends I will not be able to turn up for the shifts.”
She later raised a formal grievance over the issue, pointing out that she was earlier given the right to work flexible hours.
Referring to the continued insistence that she work weekends, she wrote: “[it] was arranged that my hours were agreed Monday to Friday specifically to accommodate my little boy and childcare, therefore enforcing a change to my work pattern is breaching my flexible work agreement.
“I do feel this is unfair on the ground that I have worked continually for the company and with very little absence over the ten years for either myself or child.
“I have looked into the avenue of external childcare due to the fact that I have no other person I could leave my little boy with and there are none that facilitate a paid childcare facility on a weekend in our area.
“The rota that has been proposed has no benefit to the company...”
A senior manager who was quizzed at the tribunal admitted that she had not conducted “any meaningful investigation” in the matters raised by Ms Holt.
The tribunal rejected a claim by Ms Holt that she was victimised.
In total, she was awarded £18,399 - £10,399 for being unfairly dismissed and £8,000 for injury to her feelings, accepting she suffered “anger, distress and affront” as a result of the company's act of what was “indirect discrimination.”