21 March 2012 #Employment
In Hawkins v Atex Group, the EAT ruled that it is not unlawful discrimination on the grounds of marital status if a spouse is dismissed due to being married to a particular person. However, the dismissal would be unlawful if the ground for the less favourable treatment was specifically due to the marriage, as opposed to a close relationship which takes the form of marriage.
Mrs Hawkins was employed as a marketing director, for less than a year by Atex Group, which was managed by her husband, who was the chief executive of the Company. A policy was introduced which prohibited employment of close relatives. This led to the dismissal of Mrs Hawkins and her daughter. An employment tribunal struck out her claim of unlawful discrimination on the grounds of marital status, and her appeal failed.
However, the EAT noted that Atex Group had not specifically excluded married women. The decision to dismiss applied to Mrs Hawkins and her daughter, and the Company was not motivated, in whole or in part, by the fact that the Claimant was married to her husband. Both she and her daughter were simply considered to be close relatives, hence the reason they were dismissed. This was due to Atex Group wanting to legitimately avoid the perception that it was run as a family business.