News

Childcare and flexible working: tribunal’s ‘landmark’ decision over dismissed nurse

Nurse’s employment appeal prompts tribunal to point to ‘childcare disparity’ women face
smiling woman sits at a table with young child with disabilities who is colouring

Nurse Gemma Dobson was sacked after telling NHS employer childcare duties meant she could not fulfil new weekend rota requirements – but now her dismissal can be re-examined

A community nurse sacked after refusing to work weekends because of childcare commitments has won what her lawyer calls a landmark decision that means her case will be re-examined.

An employment appeal tribunal ruled the case’s original tribunal had failed to take the issue of ‘childcare disparity’ experienced by mothers into account when considering the dismissal of nurse Gemma Dobson.

Dismissed following review of rota arrangements

Ms Dobson, who has three children, two with disabilities, was dismissed by North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust in 2016 following

Nurse Gemma Dobson was sacked after telling NHS employer childcare duties meant she could not fulfil new weekend rota requirements – but now her dismissal can be re-examined

smiling woman sits at a table with young child with disabilities who is colouring
Picture: iStock Posed by models

A community nurse sacked after refusing to work weekends because of childcare commitments has won what her lawyer calls a landmark decision that means her case will be re-examined.

An employment appeal tribunal ruled the case’s original tribunal had failed to take the issue of ‘childcare disparity’ experienced by mothers into account when considering the dismissal of nurse Gemma Dobson.

Dismissed following review of rota arrangements

Ms Dobson, who has three children, two with disabilities, was dismissed by North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust in 2016 following a review of working arrangements that required community nurses to work some weekends.

‘I truly hope in the future other working mothers won’t be discriminated against for having caring responsibilities’

Gemma Dobson

Before the review, she had worked fixed days, but because she was unable to take weekend shifts as a result of the demands of childcare.

Dismissed community nurse Gemma Dobson
Gemma Dobson

Ms Dobson took the trust to employment tribunal, claiming unfair dismissal and indirect sex discrimination, but lost the case, an outcome the employment appeal did not overturn.

Appeal against employment tribunal ruling

However, the appeal tribunal did find on 22 June that the original hearing did not consider the fact women bear most of the burden of childcare responsibilities, which can limit their ability to work certain hours.

The appeal body found the original tribunal had judged Ms Dobson’s claim by comparing her circumstances with those of her direct colleagues, a cohort of ten people. The appeal tribunal said the original employment hearing should have widened its comparison to all community nurses working at the trust who would be affected by the new flexible working arrangements.

‘This landmark decision gives a clear warning: working mothers with caring responsibilities should not be penalised if they are not able to work flexibly’

Doreen Reeves, employment lawyer

Ms Dobson, from Cockermouth, Cumbria, said she was delighted with the latest outcome.

‘I truly hope in the future other working mothers won’t be discriminated against for having caring responsibilities; especially those that care for disabled children,’ she said.

When women are unable to work flexible hours

Ms Dobson’s lawyer Doreen Reeves 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.’

The case will now go back before an employment tribunal to again consider the issues of indirect discrimination and unfair dismissal.

In a statement, the trust noted the appeal tribunal’s judgement but noted it had not found Ms Dobson has been subject to discrimination or unfair dismissal.


In other news

Sign up to continue reading for FREE

OR

Unlock full access to RCNi Plus today

Save over 50% on your first three months:

  • Customisable clinical dashboard featuring 200+ topics
  • Unlimited online access to all 10 RCNi Journals including Nursing Children and Young People
  • RCNi Learning featuring 180+ RCN accredited learning modules
  • NMC-compliant RCNi Portfolio to build evidence for revalidation
  • Personalised newsletters tailored to your interests

This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this?

Jobs