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Part-timers settle sex discrimination case

8 April 2002 - Adele Bruce and Susan Smith, both part-time computer analysts made redundant after refusing to work full-time, have settled a sex discrimination case against their former employer for a confidential sum. The case was supported by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC).

The two women were both experienced analyst programmers who had worked in the IT department of Scott & Co Messengers-at-Arms and Sheriff Officers in Edinburgh. Adele Bruce had worked there for 7 years and Susan Smith for eight. They had both had started as full-timers but moved to part-time work for childcare reasons after they had children.

The women were told they could not work part-time time any longer because of the department's increasing workload and were made redundant after informing Scott & Co that they were not able to work full-time.

Jenny Watson, Deputy Chair of the EOC, said:

"Employers must realise it simply doesn't make sense to get rid of experienced part-time workers. The new duty to consider requests for flexibility is likely to mean that the popularity of flexible working increases at an even greater rate in future, among men as well as women. Good employers are preparing for this now.

"Sixty per cent of working women who have dependent children choose to work part-time to enable them to balance work and home. This doesn't make their experience or their contribution to the workplace any less valuable. Businesses that refuse to accommodate part-time or flexible working arrangements are depriving themselves of a huge and growing pool of talent. This should be of particular concern in the IT industry where only 22% of the workforce are women and where a shortage of as many as 400,000 IT professionals has been predicted."

The two women claimed that they had suggested sharing one full-time post leaving the other post for another full-time worker - a suggestion that was rejected by their employer. Adele Bruce was then made redundant. Initially, Susan Smith had considered changing her childcare arrangements to allow her to work full-time but eventually concluded she was unable to do so. She was also made redundant. Susan Smith also claimed that the full-time salary offered to her was less than that of a male analyst programmer. Immediately after making the women wredundant, Scott & Co advertised for additional members of the IT department. Subsequently they employed at least two male analyst programmers.

Ms Bruce said:

"It is a great injustice that I lost my job purely on the grounds that I could not accommodate full-time working due to childcare restrictions. It is also unfortunate that Scott & Co chose to lost two loyal, experienced members of staff who were keen to continue working for them."

Ms Smith said:

"I felt it was very unfair for experienced members of staff to be made redundant at a time when the department actually needed more staff, not fewer. Part-time workers shouldn't be treated any less favourably than full-timers."

The Work and Parents Taskforce recommended to the Government in November 2001 that employers should have a duty to consider properly parents' requests to change their working hours. This proposal has been incorporated in the Employment Bill.

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