Sex discrimination: Withdrawal of offer to female chef of paid extra work at all-male event

This report relates to 1 case(s)

  • expand disabled

    Ndebele v A Bubble Company Ltd ET/2302428/2016 (0 other reports)

Ndebele v A Bubble Company Ltd ET/2302428/2016

sex discrimination | direct discrimination | agency worker

An employment tribunal has held that an employer committed direct sex discrimination when it rejected a female chef's request to do paid extra work at a private event organised by the head of sales, who said that it was an all-male event and that a male chef would be preferable.

Practical tips

The Equality Act 2010 protects agency workers against discrimination by end users.

This includes discriminating against an agency worker in the way in which the end user "affords the contract worker access, or by not affording the worker access, to opportunities for receiving a benefit".

Ms Ndebele, an agency worker, was assigned to work as a chef for a catering company. An office manager was asked by the head of sales to find a suitable chef to assist with a private event. The event was a barbecue being hosted by a friend of the head of sales. The event had nothing to do with the catering company.

The office manager found five volunteers: Ms Ndebele and four male chefs. The office manager decided that Ms Ndebele would be the best person to put forward and told the head of sales that a suitable volunteer had been found. The work was to be paid at £15 per hour, which was a higher rate than the claimant was given for working for the catering company.

However, the head of sales overruled the office manager's choice, saying that it was an all-male event and that a male chef would be preferable. The office manager went back to tell the claimant that she was not required.

The catering company subsequently asked the agency not to assign Ms Ndebele to it, with the reason given being that her work was slow.

Ms Ndebele brought a direct sex discrimination claim under s.13 of the Equality Act 2010. She was able to bring her claim under s.41 of the Act, which allows contract workers to bring claims for discrimination in relation to "opportunities for receiving a benefit, facility or service".

Ms Ndebele claimed that it was discriminatory for the catering company to:

  • reject her for the extra work on the basis of her gender; and
  • cancel her future shifts.

The employment tribunal accepted that the company could be liable for sex discrimination, despite the alleged discrimination being the result of the actions of the office manager and head of sales. They were acting in the course of their employment. The work for the private event was very similar to the work carried out by the company and they made the decision whom to select from the volunteers. The head of sales "used company staff and time to recruit this person on behalf of a friend".

The tribunal went on to accept that Ms Ndebele was not selected because of her sex and that a male chef in the same position recommended by the office manager would have been offered the benefit of the extra paid work. The tribunal therefore found the catering company to be liable for direct sex discrimination in relation to the withdrawal of the offer.

However, the employment tribunal went on to hold that the cancellation of Ms Ndebele's future shifts was not related to her sex.

The tribunal awarded £575 to Ms Ndebele. The award was made up of:

  • £75 for loss of earnings (£15 per hour for five hours' work); and
  • £500 for injury to feelings (at the bottom end of the lower Vento band).

Case transcript of Ndebele v A Bubble Company Ltd