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Male mechanic wins sex discrimination case

20 November 2001 - The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) has announced that a vehicle technician whose employer refused to let him work part-time so he could help look after his son has won his sex discrimination case against a former employer.

Neil Walkingshaw had worked full-time for the John Martin Group in East Lothian for over eight years when his son was born. Mrs Walkingshaw was also a full-time worker. During her maternity leave the couple decided that Mr Walkingshaw should be the one to go part-time at the end of her maternity leave.

But when Mr Walkingshaw discussed this with his managers he was told that the proposal was 'too messy'. He considered that they had dismissed his idea without really considering it - despite allowing four women workers in the same company to reduce their hours after having children. He handed in his resignation shortly afterwards.

Julie Mellor, Chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), said:

"Mr Walkingshaw's employers lost a skilled employee who had been with them for several years, simply because they didn't look at his request to work part-time properly. A genuine discussion about the practicalities of dealing with the changes he wanted might have helped them find a solution that suited them and him.

"I very much hope that the recommendations of the Work and Parents Taskforce, announced today, which include a code of practice to help employers deal with this kind of request, will mean that cases like this are less likely to end up before a tribunal in future. All working parents deserve a chance to balance their work with their family life, and the best employers have already recognised that this can benefit their business as well."

Mr Walkingshaw said:

"My wife and I had decided that the best way for us to manage looking after our son was for her to carry on working-full-time and for me to go part-time, so I had hoped that my employer would at least consider my suggestion.

"I'm delighted with the tribunal's decision as I really didn't think it was fair that I was treated so differently from the women in my company who had asked for part-time work. I think that if more parents could change their hours it would make for a better life for a lot of families."

Finding that Mr Walkingshaw had been discriminated against because of his sex, the tribunal awarded him 3,700 compensation. It concluded that Mr Walkingshaw's employers 'gave no meaningful consideration' to his request and that they would probably have agreed to a similar request from a woman.

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