- 06 July 2021
- 3 min read
What Will The Ruling On Weekend Working Mean For Already Overburdened Nurses?Subscribe To Advice
In what is seen as a landmark case, a court has ruled mothers with childcare responsibilities cannot be sacked for refusing to work on weekends.
In 2017, Gemma Dobson, a community nurse, had her employment with the North Cumbria Integrated NHS Foundation Trust terminated after it made flexible working, including weekends, mandatory for all staff.
Ms Dobson, an employee of the Trust for 13 years, had since 2008 worked fixed hours across Wednesdays and Thursdays, in order that she could care for her three children - two of whom are disabled.
However, in 2016 after a review by the Trust, she was asked to work one weekend a month, but was unable to meet this demand.
Given that the NHS workforce is 77% female, and large numbers of women work within the healthcare sector generally, what effect will this judgement have across the NHS and private healthcare? Comment 💬 Like ❤️ Reply 🙂 below.
Ms Dobson citing indirect sex discrimination and unfair dismissal lost her initial employment tribunal but has now won the right to an appeal.
She recalled feeling “utter disbelief” at the outcome of the original tribunal.
Commenting on the new judgement, she said: “It means everything knowing that others also believed in me and my strength in staying dedicated to my journey for justice...”
Given the large numbers of vacancies already in the NHS, what consequences could result from having employees legally able to request exemption from certain hours due to childcare needs?The presiding judge, Mr Justice Choudhury noted in his written judgement that employers need to consider “childcare disparity” as women continue to take on more responsibilities than men in looking after their children.
“Whilst the childcare disparity is not a matter directed by statute to be taken into account, it is one that has been noticed by courts at all levels for many years…As such, it falls into the category of matters that a tribunal must take into account if relevant.” he said.
Will this judgement now open the floodgates to working mothers in other sectors to demand an opt-out from weekend working?North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust’s spokeswoman said: "The trust notes the judgment of the Employment Appeal Tribunal.
“It is important to note that the Employment Appeal Tribunal did not find in its judgment that Ms Dobson was discriminated against or unfairly dismissed by the trust…” she explained.
Would you agree with the judgement of the initial tribunal that it was not discrimination on the part of the Trust to require Ms Dobson to work weekends, and then dismiss her when she refused?
Jane van Zyl, the chief executive of Working Families, who supported Ms Dobson in her case and gave evidence to the tribunal, said losing the case would have represented “a huge step backwards for women’s workplace rights”.
Will the ruling make it more difficult for healthcare employers to recruit staff willing to work unpopular shifts?
Let us know what you think in the comments, and please Like the article if you found it interesting.