Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Anna G - Discrimination against working women is alive and well in Jersey. The kitchen porter who asked for her job back after giving birth.

This coming Thursday the Jersey Community Relations Trust will be hosting a seminar in the Grand Hotel entitled ‘Advancing Women in Politics & Public Life’. It is already oversubscribed. The guest speaker will be the Right Hon Dame Tessa Jowell and the panel will include Senator Sir Philip Bailhache. 

With women making up only one third of the directors, managers and senior officials, the seminar is billed to examine ‘the barriers to a greater representation of women in leadership’. The event will probably see the launch of a campaign by women professionals as candidates in the 2014 States of Jersey elections.

Women are sorely underrepresented, as is St Helier in terms of political representation. Both will face a fight to achieve change. More women, especially capable women, would be an asset to the States in general. Historically and sadly, the women elected to the States of Jersey have proved to be some of the least able of States Members. Ivy Foster may be remembered as the first woman Deputy, but what were her policies? None can recall.

Anna G

One woman who won’t be attending the gathering of the aspiring elite on Thursday, yet has been materially affected by discrimination in Jersey, is a Polish kitchen porter, Anna G, who appeared before the Jersey Employment Tribunal this Tuesday morning. 

Through her interpreter we heard how, after 18 weeks of what Anna believed to be unpaid maternity leave, she sought to come back to her job with Randalls brewery and was told by her manager that her absence meant she had resigned. 

In spite of a verbal promise by the same manger that she could take “unpaid leave” to have her child and return, she was told the company did not have contractual maternity leave and her contract of employment was silent on the point. By leaving work to have her child she had effectively resigned and all the company could offer her now was a zero hours contract.

Randalls brewery employs around 500 staff, yet the company must be one of few larger island employers not to have a maternity leave policy. Anna G’s contract of employment was silent on the issue of maternity leave and maternity pay.  

The legal issues

Before the Tribunal was an application by the company to strike out the Applicants’ claim for unfair dismissal, on the grounds that the initiating form had been filed late and outside the required statutory period beginning with the last day of employment, the 'Effective Date of Termination'.

This Interim Hearing was to consider a number of preliminary legal issues. Firstly, what was the actual date of termination of employment? Was it following her first discussion with her manager about her pregnancy  on 3rd November 2012, her last actual day of work on Saturday 1st December 2012 or on 21st April 2013 when she had a meeting with her manager about return to work, only to be told there was no job to come back to. If November, she was out of time for filing her application for Unfair Dismissal.

Also to be considered were the precise terms of Anna G’s contract of employment. Had it been varied by the manager who told her she could return to work after 18 weeks unpaid maternity leave? Did the manager have the authority to offer maternity leave and did this bind his employer Randalls?

The social reality

Anna G made it abundantly clear that she would never have dreamed of giving in her notice and resigning as she did not have five years residence in Jersey. Without those vital five years and the associated rights to social security benefits, it would have been folly indeed to resign. Such is the insecurity of immigrant workers.

For Anna her immediate boss was the company for all practical purposes. When her manager said it was acceptable to take unpaid leave to have here child, she fully expected to be able to return to work on the same terms and conditions.


Anna G was not legally represented at the Tribunal, but she had received advice from JACS and the benefit of an interpreter provided by the Tribunal at the hearing. This was of vital assistance as Anna’s English was very limited and that of her Polish companion whilst adequate, did not stretch to legal concepts.

It was therefore fortunate for Anna G that Randalls was also not legally represented. This came about because the company’s HR advice contract with employment law specialists Peninsula had inadvertently lapsed. 

The area operations manager drew the short straw and turned up to represent the company with no experience of an employment Tribunal and no witnesses to support his case. This was a fatal error. It annoyed the Tribunal Chair by threatening to waste everyone’s time with an adjournment. 

Desperate phone calls to find Anna G’s manger and bring him to Town from “somewhere in St John” proved in vain. The case continued with the Chair’s warning that all the evidence given on behalf of the employer carried little weight, as it contained disputed issues that could not be put to proof by a witness on oath.

The Tribunal adjourned to consider its decision on the issue of allowing the case to be struck out, promising to notify the parties quickly and provide a written judgment in 14 days.

One would be foolish to preempt the judment of any court, however it is very likely that the case will be back before the Tribunal for a full hearing in due course. 

Chastened by todays humiliation, Randalls is certain to appear with an Advocate of the Royal Court in tow. As Anna G was unrepresented, I wonder if one of those able women lawyers attending Thursdays seminar on “Advancing Women” would offer their legal services free for a woman of a different social class in need of help? 

Anna G may not need an Advocate at the Tribunal but she could do with legal advice that will win her a decent financial settlement (hint to employer - settle rather than waste money on expensive lawyers).

Whilst some aspire to a seat in the States of Jersey, others have more modest ambition; like that of a working woman to retain employment adequate to support herself and a child.


  1. ''Would they be forming a political organisation to elect women to the States of Jersey in 2014 elections? There was a hint throughout the meeting that this ought to happen. ''

    In a nutshell I agree with the above.

    Sean Power is a trustee

    Dr Moran Senior associate at Ogier

    Jersey Community relations org.

    1. The Community Relations Trust on their website indicate that they have been invited by the Chief Minister “to discuss how the Trust can help the States move forward the equality agenda.”

      and they continue:

      “Listening to the comments that were made at the seminar, we are going to raise the following areas at the meeting:

      1. Female representation in politics, business and public life
      2. Equality in education
      3. The high cost of childcare
      4. The need for maternity legislation, flexible working laws and sex discrimination legislation”

      Admirable stuff.

      Will the Chief Minister do anything about this in a positive fashion, I suspect not. Why else would his government continue to refuse to sign CEDAW, or allow the Discrimination Law to fall vicitim to CSR Cuts, or only seek to implement the part about race but not that relating to gender and disability.

      This government is here to appease employers and not burden them with additional legislation that might improve the lives of working women or the disabled.