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Capita call centre chap wins landmark sex discrimination lawsuit

Ex-Telefonica man will receive full parental leave pay

A Capita man working in a Telefonica call centre has won a sex discrimination lawsuit against the outsourcing giant after bosses threatened him with a pay cut if he took paternity leave.

Madasar Ali wanted to take paternity leave to care for his new daughter, Yasmin, but was told he would only receive two weeks off on full pay, The Times reported today.

Ali's job had been TUPE'd across from Telefonica in an infamous 2013 outsourcing deal that saw 1,000 staff walk rather than join Capita. In the end, 2,308 people were transferred to the mobile operator.

The call centre worker's wife had been diagnosed with postnatal depression and she was advised by her doctor to return to work. Yet when Ali explained this to his line manager, Lora Tummons, who asked for advice from Capita HR employee Debbie Oddie, his plea fell on deaf ears.

Women employees at Telefonica were offered 14 weeks of maternity leave paid at an enhanced rate whereas men were given just two weeks off at the statutory minimum rate. Although the law changed in 2015 so both parents can share parental leave of up to 37 paid weeks and 50 weeks in total, Capita insisted on carrying on with the old, discriminatory set of rules.

After exhausting Capita's internal grievance procedure, the outcome of which "failed to address the complaint" in the tribunal's words, Ali took the company to an employment tribunal. He argued that the difference in pay meant he was being discriminated against because he didn't "get the same treatment as a female".

In response, Capita's lawyer Paul Wilson told an employment tribunal in Leeds that Ali wasn't entitled to maternity leave because he was a man and therefore could not give birth, citing the wording of the EU Pregnant Workers' Directive in the firm's defence.

Employment Judge Rita Rogerson said in her judgement (PDF, 18 pages): "It was not clear why any exclusivity should apply beyond the two weeks after the birth. In 2016, men are being encouraged to play a greater role in caring for their babies. Whether that happens in practice is a matter of choice for the parents depending on their personal circumstances, but the choice made should be free of generalised assumptions that the mother is always best placed to undertake that role and should get the full pay because of that assumed exclusivity."

Ali also won four out of five linked claims that he had been victimised at work as a result of taking the matter to the tribunal, including attempts by Tummons to demote him.

In a statement to the Employee Benefits website, Capita Customer Management said: "We are aware of the Tribunal-level decision in relation to Mr Madasar and as an organisation that takes equal opportunities very seriously, we are disappointed with the outcome in this case on that part of the claim where we were unsuccessful."

Capita has lodged an appeal against the tribunal's decision. ®

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