Right to refuse shifts ruling could hit pub trade

Related tags Discrimination

Tribunal sees working mothers given new shift rightsA new ruling giving working mothers the right to refuse shifts which conflict with family...

Tribunal sees working mothers given new shift rights

A new ruling giving working mothers the right to refuse shifts which conflict with family responsibilities could have a major effect on the pub trade.

Industry leaders are currently weighing up the implications of the employment tribunal ruling, which may also be applicable to male employees with young families.

The ruling said that police officer and mum Alison Chew was within her rights to ask to work the same days each week so that her sons could attend a nursery.

The move means that pub staff with family commitments could refuse to work evening and weekend shifts. Fathers are also covered because it would be discriminatory to deny them a concession made to mothers.

The tribunal ruled that the Avon and Somerset Police had breached the 1975 Sex Discrimination Act because women were more likely to be looking after children.

The decision now has legal status, unless it is overturned by a subsequent appeal - something judges have been reluctant to do in previous cases.

Tony Payne, chief executive of the Federation of Licensed Victuallers Associations, said: "The implications are frightening. We would advise a publican faced with a claim not to act hastily and to seek appropriate advice."

The Institute of Directors also criticised the ruling. A spokesman said: "We feel it could lead to resentment from members of staff without children who have to cover the shifts. For smaller companies particularly it may prove impossible to rearrange shift patterns or may mean extra costs in employing more staff."

The Government has also announced plans to make it easier for parents to request shorter or more flexible working hours. Employers will have to formally consider any request, although the Government stopped short of making it an automatic right.

British Chamber of Commerce director general David Lennan warned that employers will need government support if the new guidelines are to be met. He said it would be "disastrous" if the changes led to more employment tribunal disputes.

The Department of Trade and Industry is likely to issue guidelines on the size of businesses affected by the recent tribunal ruling once it has considered it.

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