Hawkins v Atex Group UKEAT/0302/11

There is no unlawful discrimination on the grounds of marital status if a spouse is dismissed or suffers some other detriment on the grounds of being married to a particular person.  Ms Hawkins had been employed for less than a year by a company her husband managed when a policy prohibiting employment of close relatives was implemented leading to her and her daughter’s dismissal. 

An Employment Tribunal struck out her claim of unlawful discrimination on the ground of marital status and her appeal failed.  The decision to dismiss applied to her and her daughter and the company was not motivated in whole or in part by the fact that she was married to her husband. 

Key point:  It seems there may only be unlawful marital status discrimination where an employee would have been more favourably treated had the relationship been close but not one of marriage.  This is a departure from the recent case of Dunn v Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management – see Update 53 February 2012