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Deaf mother wins sex discrimination claim after deaf charity refused to reduce her hours to care for baby

Makbool Javaid, Partner - Simons Muirhead & Burton

In the case of Ms L Hedger v British Deaf Association Lisanne Hedger, who herself is deaf and uses sign language to communicate, left her role as a project manager for the charity when her boss refused to approve her request to reduce her hours after having a baby.

The mum first asked if she could go down to 16 hours over two days, following her planned return in February 2019, to give her more time to care for her daughter. When that was rejected she asked if she could do 24 hours over three days – but was told her role required a minimum of 28 hours a week.

Upholding her claims of constructive and unfair dismissal, employment tribunal judge Patrick Quill said she had suffered indirect sex discrimination because women are more likely to want to reduce their hours for childcare.

He said the charity, based in Holloway, north London, had failed to adequately consider hiring someone to cover some of Ms Hedger’s hours.

‘The respondent’s actions in refusing the flexible working request were conduct, without reasonable and proper cause, which was likely to destroy or damage the relationship of confidence and trust between employer and employee,’ the judge said after a hearing in Watford.

‘In the circumstances, we find that the dismissal was an unfair one. The claimant was not dismissed because of performance or conduct and she was not redundant given that the role itself was continuing.’

Her award includes £11,000 for injury to feelings, £16,903.32 for lost earnings, £775.38 for lost pension contributions and £2,032 for breach of flexible working rules under the Employment Rights Act 1996, plus interest.

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