Sex Discrimination in Promotion Race

A government department lost a sex discrimination case brought by a woman who was overlooked for promotion.

Lack of women in top jobs

Soon after the claimant joined the department in 2016 she noticed that although the organisation employed 114 economists there were no female economists in the top professional grades.

Senior opportunities advertised

In February 2017 two senior level roles (grade 6) were advertised.

The claimant had previously been employed at this grade and had strong academic and professional credentials from some of the world’s most prestigious  employers, in addition to holding various senior posts.

There was another female applicant with an equally impressive credentials.

Female candidates rejected

In April 2017 the claimant was told that she had failed to get an interview for either of the roles.

Curious as to why she asked for an explanation, but instead of receiving one she was told to talk to HR.

Successful candidates male

The two roles were filled in June 2017 by two young male candidates, with less than six years’ experience, whereas the two female candidates both had more than twenty years’ experience each.

Neither had been employed at G6 level before, and neither of them had specialised in macro-economics.

Third post created

The employer created a third senior level post to create opportunities for male candidates who had passed the Grade 6 promotion board.

The position was filled without being advertised.

A similar opportunity for female employees who had passed the promotion board was not created.

Grievance raised

The Claimant raised a grievance at which she was represented by the National Secretary of her trade union.


Her grievance and subsequent appeal were not up held so she resigned from the organisation in August 2018.

Employment Tribunal

The claimant was represented by David Renton of Garden Court Chambers at an Employment Tribunal that was heard at the Cardiff tribunal between 7th and 10th January 2019.

The tribunal agreed that “favouritism” existed towards male staff and that those who should have addressed it, failed to do so, concluding that “the approach to gender balance…pointed towards a culture where discrimination and, in particular, sex discrimination, is not properly understood by those who are required to ensure its elimination”.

The Employment Tribunal decision added that it was “reasonable to infer that the culture of the respondent is one where advantage and favouritism to males is not recognised as potentially discriminatory”, which significantly highlights the serious cultural problems and issues that the claimant had been trying to raise throughout her employment at the organisation.

The tribunal found that the claimant’s claims of direct sex discrimination succeeded and the organisation was ordered to pay compensation and interest.

Brave colleagues

The claimant said that she was grateful to her brave colleagues for their courage in contributing to the investigation.

She added that the case showed an important reason why progress on diversity is so slow and that she hoped the result of her case would result in a real difference for all of the economists employed by the organisation.

Lack of opportunity will be challenged

Sally Ferns the Senior Secretary of Prospect has committed the union to continuing its campaign to overcome the negative work place stereotypes, and gender bias that adversely affect women’s careers.

At a time when employers in the Scientific, Technical, Engineering and Mathematics industries are lamenting the lack of appropriately qualified candidates and the industry is launching campaigns to attract more women to the professional this case does seem strangely anachronistic.

Lip service

Jane Copley, Prospect legal officer, commented that this case highlights that many employers are paying mere lip service to addressing the issue of gender balance.

She added that this is something that the union will not tolerate and that employers can expect to be challenged on it.

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