Since the Sex Discrimination Act of 1975 it has been illegal to dismiss someone on the grounds of their marital status. However, according to Chris Comley a partner in Kidd Rapinet’s Slough office, simply being closely connected to a particular person may still be a justified cause for dismissal, and employees need to be aware of the limited protection the law provides. “In a recent case an employee appealed after she, her husband (who was a senior manager) and their daughter were all dismissed by the same firm. The reason given for the employee’s dismissal was that she was a member of her husband’s family.”
The employee commenced proceedings in the employment tribunal claiming unlawful discrimination on the basis that the reason for her dismissal had been her marital status. The case reached the Employment Appeals Tribunal, which ruled that it was important to appreciate that a case where a woman was dismissed because she was married to a particular person would not always fall within the scope of the Act. For that to be the case it was essential that the fact that they were married was part of the ground for the employer’s action.
Chris Comley comments: “In many cases of this kind, the ground for the employer’s action would not be the fact of being married but simply the closeness of their relationship and the problems to which that was perceived to give rise. A common-law wife would have been treated in the same way”. In the case in question, the employee could not establish that the employers had been motivated specifically by the fact that she and her husband were married, rather than simply by the closeness of their relationship, and so her appeal had to fail. If you feel you may need advice, Kidd Rapinet can advise you. Call Chris Comley on 01753 532541 for further information.