Make sure redundancy selection criteria are objective!

A travel company that assumed a pregnant employee would be happy to switch to a job share when her role was at risk of redundancy has lost an employment tribunal.
The Employment Tribunal heard the employee was dismissed through redundancy. The company employed her as a global travel help (GTH) executive.

She was on maternity leave between April 2013 and November 2014. When she returned, she requested flexible-working arrangements, which involved job-sharing and a three-day week and the travel agency agreed to this. In June 2016, business plans were put forward that would involve closing the office, putting the jobs of the 46 staff who worked there at risk. However, the proposals also created six new roles which the agency planned to fill from their existing staff.

The employee was due to take maternity leave for her second baby from July 2016 to July 2017 but told HR that she was interested in applying for one of the new roles.
It was suggested she consider a job share alongside another employee who was also pregnant and she said she would give this some thought but that she would also be interested in returning to a full time role if successful. Following an interview process she was placed sixth out of the eight applicants and was told that she had not been selected for a role and would be made redundant. She and the other pregnant employee had been evaluated as one employee, on a job share basis.

Finding that the dismissal was both unfair and discriminatory on the grounds of her pregnancy, the tribunal criticised the company for its inadequate and subjective marking and for assuming a job share would suit both pregnant candidates, resulting in them being marked as one person. In particular, the judge found that one of the three managers responsible for the selection process had treated the employee unfairly because of her personal circumstances.

This case is a reminder to employers to make sure they can justify why a staff member is being made redundant. It needs to be meticulous at every stage because discrimination can be present even if the employer seeks to do things lawfully.

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