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Employment Law Case Update: Sex Discrimination

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As an employer, it is important that when disciplining, or indeed dismissing employees, the criteria on which you do so is consistent for all instances. The Case of Higham and Escott v Greater Manchester Police is a prime example of just how severe the consequences can be as a court found they treated two female officers differently than male officers during two separate disciplinary procedures.  

Two senior female police officers Ms Higham and Ms Escott (“Officers”) both brought claims of sex discrimination before the Employment Tribunal (“ET”) after they had been placed on restricted duties after giving evidence in a separate tribunal claim.

Both Officers worked in the professional services board (“PSB”) of Greater Manchester Police (“GMP”). The Officers were witnesses for GMP in a tribunal claim brought against them by a former inspector Scott Winters. Ms Higham disclosed to GMP’s lawyers of an allegation that had been raised against Mr Winters where he allegedly grabbed a female officer and pinned her against a wall.

The allegation was raised during the cross-examination of Mr Winters. Following the resolution of the claim Mr Winters wrote to GMP stating the complaint was false and was never reported or investigated.

Both Officers were referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (“IPCC”) following an independent investigation of the complaint and were informed they were being investigated for gross misconduct in relation to the testimony.

Evidence submitted to the IPCC did in fact show the complaint had been raised in 1998 along with other allegations of bullying.

Whilst the investigation took place by the IPCC both Officers were removed from their responsibilities on the PSB and placed on restrictive duties. GMP argued that this was because of a blanket policy that was implemented when allegations were raised against an officer.

The Officers brought a claim of sex discrimination alleging that the decision to place them on restricted duties was unfavourable treatment due to their sex. In order to be successful the Officers were required to compare the treatment they had received with a comparator of similar circumstances but who did not share their protected characteristic of their sex. The Officers’ compared the treatment they had received to that of four male officers who had not been placed on restricted duties after an allegation had been raised against them.  

The ET found in the Officers’ favour holding that the decision to place the Officers on restricted duties was less favourable treatment when compared to male officers in similar circumstances, finding the blanket policy as the reason for the restriction being weak. The Officers were awarded a combined £42,500.

This case highlights the importance of ensuring that all staff are treated fairly and equally, it also shows that the cost of failing to do so can be considerable. 

If you have any questions on how to conduct carry out disciplinary proceedings please contact the Employment team on 023 8071 7717 or email them at

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This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.