EAT Rules on Scope of Marriage Discrimination Provisions

2 mins

Posted on 27 Mar 2012

The EAT has held that the statutory provisions prohibiting discrimination on grounds of marriage do not protect a woman against less favourable treatment on the ground that she is married to a particular man. They only protect her where the less favourable treatment is due to the fact that she is married per se. 

In Hawkins v Atex Group Ltd, H was appointed as marketing director of the company by her husband who was its chief executive.  H was subsequently dismissed as the Board was concerned that having the wife of the chief executive in a senior executive role created an unacceptable conflict of interest.

H claimed that this amounted to direct discrimination on grounds of marital status.  The employment tribunal and EAT disagreed.  The statutory provisions only preclude a woman from being treated less favourably because she is married and not because of whom she is married to.  H was not dismissed because she was married, but because of the closeness of her relationship to the chief executive which gave rise to a conflict of interest.  A woman who was not married but in a similarly close relationship to the chief executive would also have been dismissed – so marriage was not the reason for the treatment.   

In coming to this decision, the EAT contradicted a decision earlier this year in Dunn v Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management where it was suggested that the marriage discrimination provisions protected a woman where she was treated less favourably because she was married to a particular man.  That decision was considered by many to be incorrect and this latest decision is therefore to be welcomed.

The articles published on this website, current at the date of publication, are for reference purposes only. They do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your own circumstances should always be sought separately before taking any action.

Back to top