Asking a candidate about childcare can be an expensive business?

A female was awarded £2,000 after she was asked about childcare arrangements during her interview.

The case concerns Chihiro Macdonald (CM) and the Japanese Consulate (JC). CM applied for a temporary position with JC as a cultural and general information assistant. CM and four others applied for the post which held a £20,000 salary. All five and all women underwent an interview. All the interviews were conducted by the same Manager.

During the interview CM was asked whether she had children, what she would do if one of children were sick, what she would do about her children if she expected to work late, whether she could afford the childcare costs and whether any family lived nearby who could help out with childcare. Approximately half the interview time was spent enquiring about childcare.

When CM was turned down for the job she claimed sex discrimination. The Tribunal asked to see the interview score sheets and from those that were disclosed CM had scored the highest. The Tribunal ruled in CM’s favour noting that she had been asked a large number of childcare related questions, for this she was awarded £2,000 plus costs.

Points to bear in mind:
1. Where there are allegations of less favourable treatment on the grounds of sex, the law allows a female claimant to use a hypothetical male comparator. So even though a man didn’t actually interview for the role, if one had of been the tribunal concluded that ‘he’ would not have been treated in the same way as CM.

2. This outcome does not mean you can’t ask about childcare arrangements, this is allowed, but you must be able to show that the questions were reasonable, were put to every interviewee or would have been put to a man if none were interviewed for that same role.

3. It is worth completing all score sheets in case you are asked to justify your selection criteria.

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