An employment tribunal has ruled that requesting a female Tube driver to work on Saturdays does not constitute sex discrimination.

Nicola Jones, a long-time employee of London Underground, had sought alternate Saturdays off to care for her child. However, her request was declined by the company, prompting her to take legal action.

Ms. Jones, who joined the company in 2001 and became a mother in 2013, had conveyed to her employers the necessity of having opposite shift patterns to her husband, who is a bus driver mandated to work weekends.

At the heart of her case was the contention that her avoidance of Saturday shifts since becoming a parent was reasonable due to her familial responsibilities.

Most drivers were requred to work 50% of weekends

During proceedings, it was revealed that most drivers at the Hainault depot, where Ms. Jones was stationed, were required to work approximately 50 percent of weekends, with weekend shifts being slightly longer than those during the week.

In November 2020, Ms. Jones was informed by her manager that her flexible working arrangement, which allowed her to avoid Saturday shifts, was being terminated due to its purported adverse impact on service quality. Rejecting Ms. Jones’s claims of both direct and indirect sex discrimination, Employment Judge Stephen Shore underscored the absence of evidence indicating disparate treatment based on gender.

Alternative schedules were a priority

Judge Shore stated that there was no indication that a hypothetical male employee would have been treated differently under similar circumstances. He further elucidated that the company’s decision to deny Ms. Jones’s request was rooted in a desire to manage potential queues of employees seeking alternative schedules, rather than any gender-based bias.

While Ms. Jones’s claim of victimisation was unsuccessful, the tribunal did find fault with London Underground’s handling of her request. Consequently, Ms. Jones was awarded £2,720 in compensation, with the tribunal deeming the company’s actions in this regard as unreasonable.

This ruling marks a significant development in the ongoing discourse surrounding workplace flexibility and gender equality, particularly in sectors with traditionally rigid schedules. The case underscores the importance of equitable treatment and fair consideration of employees’ personal circumstances in employment practices.





Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.