When recruiting staff, you may have a particular type of candidate in mind, but that is precisely the mindset that can give rise to discrimination. A company that advertised on social media for 'mothers' to work as babysitters fell into exactly that trap and was ordered to pay compensation to a disappointed male applicant (Wright v Pottiebee Inc Ltd).
The civil servant, an experienced, hands-on father of two, tried to apply for a babysitting role after finding the advert online. He said that the very first question on the application form was 'Are you a mother?' When he contacted the company, he was informed that it only allowed women to work for it as babysitters.
A highly educated Sunday school volunteer and Air Cadets instructor, the father was deeply offended by that response. He said it implied that fathers are incompetent parents, that his experience counted for nothing simply because of his gender and that he could not be trusted to care for children.
In upholding his sex discrimination complaint, an Employment Tribunal (ET) noted that the company had put in no defence to his claim. He was an honest witness who had not over-egged the pudding. He was understandably hurt by what he viewed as the company's utterly ill-informed undervaluation of a father's role.
The ET acknowledged that it was a one-off occurrence and that the discrimination was likely to have arisen from ignorance rather than a deliberate intention to cause harm. The company was ordered to pay the man £200 in respect of lost earnings and a further £1,300 for injury to his feelings.