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French tutor wins sex discrimination claim after being asked to speak to mature student about hygiene

Makbool Javaid, Partner - Simons Muirhead & Burton

In Miss H Jones v Open Age Helene Jones was a part-time self-employed tutor engaged to teach language and other classes to older people by a charity whose aims are to keep older people healthier and happier for longer, including by delivering a range of learning activities in parts of London.

Over a period from roughly Spring 2018 to Spring 2019, Miss Jones was asked by more than one manager to approach an elderly male student, Mr H, about an issue of personal hygiene relating to the involuntary release of urine, which could be smelt by other students. This happened on some five or so occasions. Miss Jones felt that it was not appropriate to ask a woman to address that particular sort of issue with a man and believes that the managers who made the requests of her did so because in part she was a woman and therefore in their view more suited to dealing with issues of personal hygiene.

The tribunal found, on the balance of probabilities, that there was a level of conscious or unconscious assumption that women were better suited to that task, in part because on all occasions there was at least one man who could have performed the task and that on the latter occasions a male manager asked Miss Jones, a female tutor, to approach Mr H in circumstances where the tribunal consider it would have been more appropriate for the manager (or either sex) not a tutor to deal with the issue.

Although she did not raise a grievance at the time, Jones brought the claim of harassment related to sex alongside several other claims after she parted ways with the charity following the charity’s decision to end its relationship with her.

Jones was awarded £4,000 plus £1,000 interest for “personal injury to feelings” relating to the claim about personal hygiene. All other claims failed.

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