Employment Tribunal: Zero hours

27 April 2015

Personnel Today has reported a recent case regarding a zero hours contract worker who feared reporting allegations of sexual harassment by her line manager in case her hours were reduced.

In this tribunal decision highlighting zero hours contract workers’ vulnerable position, the claimant in S v Britannia Hotels Ltd and another worked in a hotel bar on a zero hours contract. She was aged 22 and had a history of mental health problems.

She contended that her line manager frequently touched her and asked her about her sex life.

The claimant was initially reluctant to raise a formal complaint, for fear that her line manager would reduce her hours.

She mentioned the problem informally to another line manager, who advised her to lodge a written complaint. The manager took no further action.

The zero hours contract worker eventually raised a formal grievance after her mother intervened.

She went off work and, after a disciplinary process lasting nearly a year, no further action was taken against her manager.

The employment tribunal, which had no doubt that the claimant’s initial reluctance to complain was because of her zero hours contract status, upheld her sexual harassment claim. She believed that she was reliant on her line manager to give her shifts.

The tribunal, which accepted the claimant’s version of events, awarded her £19,500 for injury to feelings. It was highly critical of the employer’s investigation, particularly its:

  • failure to follow up on the worker’s initial informal complaint;
  • lack of any clear action against the alleged perpetrator; and
  • long delay in completing the investigation.

The tribunal also expressed its surprise that, in a case of this sensitivity, nobody from the employer (apart from its lawyers) attended the tribunal to hear its liability decision.

Read more…