Leading charity guilty of sex discrimination

John wilkes

John Wilkes, former SRC chief executive 

Charity ordered to pay five figure compensation awarded to two employees 

12th July 2017 by Robert Armour 0 Comments

A leading refugee charity has been found guilty of sex discrimination against an employee on maternity leave, an employment tribunal has decreed.

In a judgement issued last week, the tribunal ruled that the Scottish Refugee Council (SRC), Scotland’s leading refugee-rights organisation, unfairly dismissed two of its employees.

Stephen McGuire and Petra Kasparek, were made redundant by the charity last June.  

But after a four-day hearing a Glasgow employment tribunal found that the SRC had failed to follow its own policies and procedures in dismissing the two employees.

It also found that the SRC should have adopted alternative proposals put forward by Unite the Union workplace representatives which would have prevented the need for dismissals.

In rejecting the union’s proposals, the tribunal said in its judgement that the SRC’s then chief executive John Wilkes had “acted in a way no reasonable employer would have acted.”

The tribunal instructed the SRC to pay McGuire and Kasparek a five-figure compensatory award. The charity was also instructed to reinstate McGuire. 

Wilkes, who has since taken up the post of chief executive with the Scottish Equality and Human Rights Commission, was found to have “a surprisingly poor understanding of the SRC’s policies and procedures.”

He likewise had “a poor grasp of how some of the SRC’s actions were at variance with its formal policies.”

The tribunal ruled that in dismissing Kasparek the SRC had failed in its legal duty to offer a woman on maternity leave suitable alternative employment in a redundancy situation.

The SRC had also subjected Kasparek to indirect sex discrimination in using a competitive interview process to select employees for redundancy. 

This had disadvantaged Kasparek, due to the length of time she had been absent from work on maternity leave and subsequent annual leave. 

An appeal by Kasparek against her dismissal, heard by the SRC’s head of finance and ddministration Kes Cameron, was described by the tribunal as “little more than a sham.”

A spokesperson for the Unite Glasgow Not for Profit branch, of which the claimants were members, said:  “The message for Not for Profit sector employers from this judgement is straightforward.

If you mistreat our members, we will take you on, and we will win.” 

Gary Christie, interim chief executive of the Scottish Refugee Council, said: "We always seeks to retain the expertise of our highly dedicated staff.  However, like many charities, we face difficult staffing decisions in tight timeframes when project funding streams come to an end and no new funding is in place.

"The  tribunal decision shows that in this instance we got it wrong. The board and management team will carefully consider the judgement in detail.

"We will implement all necessary actions to make sure that when redundancy situations regrettably arise in the future we do so equitably and in line with our policies and procedures.”