A female bus driver has been awarded a £36,000 pay out for unfair dismissal and  sex discrimination after she was forced out of her role following 'necessary' changes to it.

Tracey Ashford had worked with Rossendale Transport for nine years and had been transferred to another transport company when she was told that they could no longer offer her the part-time hours she had been working. As a single mum of two she required these hours since it was difficult to find adequate childcare.

Having moved to the other company she had been offered a zero hours contract. This would mean that she could be asked to work shifts as and when required. Clearly, as this would lead to unpredictable working hours and difficulty organising child care she felt that she had no choice but to quit her job.

Ms Ashford took her case to the tribunal and it was held that she had been unfairly dismissed as well as the victim of sex discrimination. The transport company was also criticised for not providing her with a written contract of employment. Ms Ashford commented “I could no longer juggle day care with picking up the children from school. The court said the company had made it impossible in my position to maintain my employment”. As such she had been constructively dismissed, that is forced by circumstances placed on her by her employer to leave.

The employers appealed saying that the dismissal was not unfair given the fact that they were not in a position to offer her any alternative work due to her hours. They lost the appeal with the original decision being upheld at the Court of Appeal. Ms Ashford notes that they had told her that she would have to take on night shifts and weekends but had not placed much thought on ways to maintain her original working hours.

Ms Ashford's solicitor said that as the only female part-time driver working at the company she had been a victim of indirect discrimination. On the facts, as a single mother struggling to obtain affordable childcare, the non-existence of part-time hours indirectly affected her more than it did others. Regardless of whether or not this was a consideration of the transport company, it was unlawful. Ms Ashford was also supported by the trade union Unite, with one of its representative's commenting “We hope that this judgement will provide a lesson to all employers regarding the treatment of women and particularly those with child care responsibilities.”

The pay out covers Ms Ashford's loss of earnings.

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