'Inflexible' employers may face tribunal

19th January 2001 at 00:00
A LECTURER is claiming sexual discrimination because the alternative employment she was offered after redundancy would have put too much pressure on her home life.

Sally Knights, 47, who teaches at Filton College, Bristol, was one of nine heads of curriculum whose posts disappeared in a restructuring of management positions.

Ms Knights, who has two children aged three and nine, was invited to apply for one of the five new posts of head of school. However, she claims that these new posts were too demanding and she would not have been able to manage the amount of out-of-hours work which would have been required.

She was also offered a lecturing post but, she said, this was outside her subject specialism and did not make use of the management skills she had acquired over the past 10 years of the 20 years she has been teaching at the college.

The college abruptly asked her to leave her job before the end of the notice period.

Her union, NATFHE, is considering taking her case to an employment tribunal. It says it is considering a case based on sexual discrimination or the college's failure to be more flexible in offering alternative employment.

NATFHE's solicitors ar making an assessment of the evidence before deciding whether action should be supported by the union.

Rick Dearing, who has been the college principal for three-and-a-half years, said Ms Knights' students would continue to be taught by qualified and experienced staff, and insisted the college had followed proper redundancy procedures.

He denied that there was a "long hours culture" surrounding the post offered to Ms Knights.

The college's solicitors have advised him to make no further comment.

"Colleges are being encouraged to introduce more family-friendly policies into the workplace," said Geraldine Egan, NATFHE's regional official.

"Unless they do, students will be denied the experience and talents of lecturers like Sally Knights and other women who reasonably expect working conditions which support their role as teachers, education managers and parents."

NATFHE recently drew up a series of family-friendly employment guidelines for colleges in conjunction with other unions and employers' bodies, including the Association of Colleges.

The agreement aims to "assist employees to combine their careers with parenthood and family responsibilitie".

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