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5 October 2015 0 Comments
Posted in Employment, Opinion

Zero hours worker received £19,500 for injury to feelings.

Author headshot image Posted by , Partner

In a first instance decision in the Leeds Employment Tribunal, Southern v Britannia Hotels Limited and Another a Claimant has been awarded the sum of £19,500 for injury to feelings. The Claimant was a waitress who worked in one of the Respondent’s hotels under a zero hours contract. She was a 22 year old with a history of mental health problems, of which the Respondent was aware. She claimed that she had been subjected to serious sexual harassment by her line manager, and complained about it to another line manager who told her to lodge a written complaint but did nothing more. She did not want to make a fuss because she was concerned that her shifts would be reduced if she did; but the harassment became sufficiently serious for her to go off sick with stress. She eventually lodged a formal grievance, the outcome of which was that some of the individual’s behaviour was deemed to be inappropriate but no disciplinary action was taken against him.

Before the outcome of her grievance was known she lodged an Employment Tribunal claim for sex related harassment under the Equality Act. The employer then appointed a different manager to conduct another investigation and again the perpetrator denied the allegations. However the main witness in support of the Claimant changed their account to such an extent that it was no longer corroborative evidence. The investigator, who had not read the papers into the first investigation, was unaware of the inconsistency. She found that there was no conclusive evidence that the majority of incidents had occurred. The Claimant appealed but this was rejected.

The Tribunal found that her evidence as to the events which had occurred was accurate. Her claim for sex discrimination by way of harassment succeeded and the Respondent could not demonstrate that it had taken reasonable steps to prevent it. It making its award the Tribunal noted that, while the harassment was not the worst type, it took into account her vulnerability due to her age and mental health. However it declined to apply a 10% uplift as per Simmonds v Castle, noting the conflicting authorities as to whether or not this applies in the Tribunal.

The interesting part of this case is that, contrary to popular perception, zero hours workers do have some employment rights and these will be enforced where the claims are genuine. The Tribunal acknowledged her fear that her shifts might be reduced if she complained about her treatment.

This legal update is provided for general information purposes only and should not be applied to specific circumstances without prior consultation with us.

For further details on any of the issues covered in this update please contact Gemma Ospedale, Partner in Employment on 020 7583 2222.

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