According to a recent survey conducted by the Institute of Fiscal Studies “working mothers have been able to do only one hour of uninterrupted work for every three hours done by men during lockdown”. Whilst this statistic may not be surprising to working mothers, it does raise some important questions as to whether working mothers have been treated less favourably in their employment during the Covid-19 Lockdown.
The majority of working adults have found working from home and the Covid-19 lockdown difficult. However, for working mothers the additional requirements of home-schooling and looking after children whilst working from home could result in them suffering sex discrimination in the workplace.
What is Sex Discrimination?
There are different types of sex discrimination as defined by the Equality Act 2010:
- Direct Sex Discrimination
This is where a female work is treated less favourably than a male worker.
For example, if a female worker did not receive a performance bonus because they requested to work from home due to childcare responsibilities, but a male worker who achieved the same performance levels did receive a bonus.
- Indirect Sex Discrimination
This is where a practice, criterion or policy is applied to the entire workforce but has the effect of treating all female workers less favourably than male workers.
For example, a policy is applied to all staff which stipulates that if employees are working from home, they are not allowed to request flexible working hours. Instead, they must work their contracted hours at all times. When applied to the whole workforce this policy has the potential to treat female employees working from home less favourable than male employees working from home as statistically women bear the main burden of caring and schooling responsibilities.
This is where a female worker receives unwanted conduct, related to her sex, which has the effect of violating the female worker’s dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the female worker.
For example, a recent article written by The Independent listed several real-life harassment stories. One of which were: “The director of the company uses Zoom to take screenshots of myself and other women which he shares with colleagues making derogatory statements and implying the photos look like we’re doing sexual acts.”
For more detailed information relating to sexual harassment during lock-down please see our blog https://lincslaw.co.uk/blog/2618/
What To Do If You Have Been Treated Less Favourably as a Working Mother?
If you consider that you have been treated less favourably as a working mother, the first course of action should be to raise the matter informally with your line manager or supervisor. Often, the matter can be resolved informally once management are aware of your concerns.
Unfortunately, if the matter cannot be resolved informally, or you feel your line manager / supervisor is still discriminating against you, the next stage would be to raise a formal grievance. A formal grievance requires the employer to investigate your concerns and report back to you with their findings. For further information on grievances please see our blog: https://lincslaw.co.uk/blog/need-to-send-a-grievance-or-complaint-to-your-employer/
If you do not consider that the matter can be resolved through internal processes, you could decide to proceed to the Employment Tribunal with your claim. We would always recommend that you take independent legal advice before commencing any claim.
Please always be aware that there are strict timescales you must adhere to when bringing a claim for discrimination in the Employment Tribunal. These timescales are discussed in more detail below.
Employment Tribunal Claims and Time Limits
If you want to issue a claim of discrimination against your employer, there are strict timescales which you must comply with. You must commence ACAS Early Conciliation within 3 months less one day from the last act of discrimination you are claiming.
ACAS Early Conciliation is a mandatory process that all potential litigants must go through before they can bring a claim to the Employment Tribunal. The aim of ACAS is to try and resolve the dispute between you and your employer without the need for further claims to be brought in the Employment Tribunal. If you are unable to resolve your dispute through ACAS Early Conciliation you will then be able to proceed to the Employment Tribunal.
These timescales must be adhered to regardless of whether your employer is investigating any grievance.
Lincs Law Employment Solicitors Can Help You
If you would like to further advice on sex discrimination, please do not hesitate to contact us for a no obligation, free consultation please call on 01522 440512. For more information on discrimination, please visit our website: https://lincslaw.co.uk/services/employees/workplace-problems/discrimination-bullying-and-harassment/
Specialist Employment Solicitor
Lincs Law Employment Solicitors