Employment Tribunal finds that St Mungos victimised female worker
JANUARY 21, 2020
A recent judgement from by an Employment Tribunal found that St Mungos had victimised a staff member following her submission of an equal pay questionnaire.
The HR director, Helen Giles, had told the staff member that she would never work in the organisation again having made the submission. She had previously written an article for The Times criticising employees that pursue discrimination claims headlined “Stop legal parasites feeding on small business” (The Times 4/11/2011) and St Mungos staff have repeatedly had reason to question her suitability to work in a homelessness charity.
Leigh Andrews, who raised the concern, worked for Broadway, which merged with St Mungos from 2002 to 2004. During this time Howard Sinclair and Helen Giles occupied the same roles (Chief Executive and HR Director) that they currently hold in St Mungos.
After Ms Andrews left Broadway, she found out that a male colleague had been paid more than her for undertaking the same work. Supported by that colleague, she submitted an “equal pay questionnaire” – a statutory procedure by which a female worker can challenge a company which paid men more than women for similar work.
Unite pursued the discrimination issue when it learned last year that an offer to join the organisations locum bank had been withdrawn following the personal intervention of Helen Giles and Howard Sinclair.
Initially Ms Andrews was given no explanation other than “information has subsequently come to light surrounding [her] employment at Broadway." A subject access request and tribunal proceedings revealed that Ms Andrews had scored highly in her assessment.
Managers who were familiar with her work had heard she was joining the locum list and were eager that she provide cover for senior roles.
At the tribunal Helen Giles attempted to justify the withdrawal of the offer on the basis that Ms Andrews was to be investigated for bullying in 2004 but she was unable to provide evidence to support either the allegations or that any such matter was to be investigated.
The Tribunal concluded that Giles’ claim was untrue.
Howard Sinclair attempted to justify his role by stating that Ms Andrews was known to play a “poisonous” role within the organisation.
He was unable to provide any evidence other than Helen Giles to support this claim.
At the hearing Howard Sinclair accepted that he had taken Ms Sinclair for a coffee after she had handed in her notice and had asked her to reconsider her decision to leave.
The Tribunal concluded that Mr Sinclair had no awareness of the subsequent equal pay proceedings was untrue.
The Tribunal stated,
“We find that not only did Mr Sinclair know about the proceedings in 2004, but that he recalled them (or was reminded of them) when the Claimant’s name was mentioned to him again in 2018 by Ms Giles.
“As for the account given by both Ms Giles and Mr Sinclair of the phone conversation which they had to discuss the question, we regarded as both unreliable and inherently implausible.
“On the balance of possibilities, we find that the decision to revoke the offer was taken by both Ms Giles and Ms Sinclair in consultation with each other.
“Given the length and nature of their working relationship, we consider it highly likely that they discussed the matter in far greater detail than they told the tribunal; we consider it equally likely that they discussed the earlier equal pay proceedings and that this formed at least part of their reason for revoking the offer.”
Unite’s regional legal officer, Adam Lambert said: “Victimising a prospective female worker for raising concerns about gender pay inequality brings further shame on St Mungos...
“...The two employees responsible for this affair remain in the charity’s most senior roles, whilst the board, who are responsible for good governance in St Mungos, remain asleep on the job.”