Nurse wins appeal after sacked for refusing to work weekends

Nurse wins appeal after she was sacked for refusing to work weekends because she had to look after her family

  • The judge allowed an appeal by Gemma Dobson against the tribunal’s decision
  • It had said that she was not a victim of sex discrimination when she lost her job
  • Mr Justice Choudhury said that women bear burden of childcare responsibilities
  • And he said that this can then limit their ability to attend work at certain hours
  • He ruled tribunal had failed to take sufficient account of the ‘childcare disparity’ 

A judge allowed an appeal by Gemma Dobson (pictured) against a tribunal’s decision that she was not a victim of sex discrimination when she lost her job

A nurse sacked after refusing to work at weekends because she had to look after her children has won a ruling hailed as a landmark for working mothers.

A judge allowed an appeal by Gemma Dobson against a tribunal’s decision that she was not a victim of sex discrimination when she lost her job.

Mr Justice Choudhury, president of the Employment Appeal Tribunal, said women bear the greater burden of childcare responsibilities and this can limit their ability to work certain hours.

He ruled that the tribunal had failed to take sufficient account of the ‘childcare disparity’.

Mrs Dobson, who was a community nurse in Cockermouth, Cumbria, was allowed to work only on Wednesdays and Thursdays after the birth of her first child, who is disabled, in 2008.

She went on to have two more children, with the youngest diagnosed with autism in 2014.

But after a review by the North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust in 2016, she was asked to work one weekend a month.

An employment tribunal in Carlisle rejected her sex discrimination claim after she was sacked, noting that her colleagues – eight men and one woman – worked weekends despite having children.

Backed by the charity Working Families, Mrs Dobson lodged her appeal.

Mr Justice Choudhury said the tribunal failed to take account of the fact that ‘women, because of their childcare responsibilities, were less likely to be able to accommodate certain working patterns than men’.

Mr Justice Choudhury, president of the Employment Appeal Tribunal, said women bear the greater burden of childcare responsibilities and this can limit their ability to work certain hours

‘I am delighted with the outcome of the appeal,’ Mrs Dobson said yesterday. The case will go back to the employment tribunal to re-examine her claims.

Her solicitor, Doreen Reeves of Slater and Gordon, said: ‘This landmark decision gives a clear warning – working mothers with caring responsibilities should not be penalised if they are not able to work flexibly to meet business needs or demands of a service.’

Jane van Zyl, of Working Families, said the judgment was ‘welcome protection’ for working mothers.

The North Cumbria NHS trust said it ‘noted’ the judgment.

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