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English Tribunal Condemns Discriminatory Work Schedules

Nurses Christine Clunie and Alison Hale lost their jobs when their employer, Wiltshire Healthcare NHS Trust, forced them to work rotating shifts, making it impossible for the women to arrange care for their children. Wiltshire instituted the rotating shifts, which required nurses to work a variety of morning, evening and night shifts, in an attempt to cut costs.

Clunie and Hale had worked 12-hour night shifts for over ten years and had managed to successfully balance work and childrearing responsibilities before the scheduling changes were imposed. The women charged their former employers with discrimination and an employment tribunal in Bristol has now ruled that the hospital’s rotating shift policy was discriminatory against working mothers.

Tribunal Chair Colin Sara said of Wilshire, “Their decision to introduce compulsory rotating shifts for all nursing staff, both qualified and unqualified, without any allowance for childcare responsibilities, was not justifiable.”

Royal College of Nursing spokesperson Jo Stockley responded to the ruling by saying, “By not following government policy on family friendly shift patterns, the trust lost two dedicated nurses with a combined experience of nearly 30 years. Given that the NHS is experiencing the worst nurse shortage crisis in 25 years, this is clearly ludicrous.” Stockley also warned hospitals to follow the tribunal’s ruling or anticipate discrimination claims.

Ms. Clunie now works as a stocking clerk at a supermarket and said that losing her nursing job was a “terrible upheaval.” Mrs. Hale is now a medical assessor for insurance companies. Compensation for the women will be decided at a later date.

Sources:

The Times of London - January 15, 1999

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