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Employment Law Case Update: Hayman v Pall-Ex(UK) Ltd and Mr Christopher Tancock

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Tackling inappropriate comments in the workplace should be at the top of every employer's agenda when it comes to employee relations.  This was proven in a recent Employment Tribunal case where an employee was called a "baby farmer".  Our Employment team reviews the case and advises employers on the steps they should take to tackle such comments. 

In the case of Hayman v Pall-Ex(UK) Ltd and Mr Christopher Tancock, Miss Hayman was employed by Pall-Ex from 2007 until her resignation in July 2016.  Mr Tancock became Miss Hayman’s line manager in November 2010 following her return from maternity leave after the birth of her second child.

Miss Hayman took a number of periods of maternity while employed by Pall-Ex. On her return from her third period of maternity leave, she noticed that Mr Tancock had started to make references to her responsibilities as a parent, often mocking them.  In an email, Mr Tancock stated: “Can you tell me when you get a moment in between nappy changing?”

Further discriminatory comments were directed towards Miss Hayman with David Gannon, Finance Director at the time, stating “nothing has happened since you became a baby farmer.”  This comment was made after Miss Hayman asked for an update on a client.

The Employment Tribunal (ET) found that a further discriminatory incident took place on 9 June 2016.  Miss Hayman was attending a client meeting with Mr Tancock and Mark Steel, Head of Sales, in Milton Keynes.  Miss Hayman arrived later than her colleagues as she had travelled separately.  Mr Tancock asked where she had been; she stated that she had been in the Tesco car park.  Mr Tancock then sarcastically replied, “Where? In Nottingham?”

The ET stated that it was unlikely that Mr Tancock would have made the car park comments had Miss Hayman been a man.  They found that the comments were “demonstrative of a stereotypical attitude towards the claimant as a woman that she was not competent to drive to a given destination and got lost.”

Miss Hayman raised a number of other complaints based on comments that had been made to her.  Many of these fell outside of the time limit in which she could bring a claim.  As such, the ET only found in Miss Hayman’s favour for the ‘baby farmer’ comment and the ‘Milton Keynes’ incident. Miss Hayman also succeeded in her claim for constructive unfair dismissal due to Mr Tancock’s bullying behaviour.

This case highlights the importance for managers to be vigilant against inappropriate comments based on a person’s sex or any other protected characteristic.  One comment alone can amount to an act of discrimination; it is therefore essential that managers are trained and supported in being able to deal with such issues.

If you have questions regarding an employee of yours who is pregnant, you can contact the Employment team today on 023 8071 7717 or email employment@warnergoodman.co.uk

ENDS

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.