WHSmith forced the woman to work on Saturdays and bring her child with her

London, United Kingdom - February 05, 2019: Unidentified man walks in front of WHSmith branch at London Luton Airport. WHS is a large UK retailer that mainly sells books, stationery and magazines.

A boss at a London WHSmith has been sued for sex discrimination and unfair dismissal (Image: Getty Images)

A WHSmith worker has won more than £25,000 after being forced to take her daughter to work because her manager made her work on Saturdays.

Jacqueline Keating, who was then the sole caregiver to her eight-year-old child, asked not to work weekends because she had no one to look after her.

But her “frustrated” boss told her she had to work a four-hour shift on a Saturday and find her own replacement if she couldn’t, an employment tribunal has been told.

She was forced to resign and sued the high street chain for gender discrimination and unfair dismissal.

And she has now been awarded £25,558.55 in compensation after the panel found that being forced to do Saturday work as primary carers put her at a disadvantage.

Ms Keating began working at a WHSmith chain in London in October 2015 on a 20-hour contract – plus an additional eight hours if needed, the panel heard.

Then, in July 2018, her manager — known only as Mr. Cruikshank in court documents — instituted a Saturday schedule for weekday employees to work one weekend day a month.

Beckenham, England - May 8th 2011: A sign and fascia on a branch of the WHSmith newspaper and stationery retail chain of shops in Beckenham, Kent (South East London) with a sign and fascia. WHSmith was founded in 1792 by Henry Walton Smith in a small London newspaper shop. Her son William Henry Smith eventually inherited the business and made it the country's most important newspaper distributor with bookstalls at numerous train stations. WHSmith has been a household name in Britain for decades.

The single mum, who took legal action against her boss, says she doesn’t have a family network to help her (Image: Getty Images)

This was to combat falling sales revenues and came after university students, who normally covered the weekend, resigned, the court heard.

At the hearing in Croydon, south London, it was said on multiple occasions that this roster was a “massive problem” for the single mum, who has no family or social network to help her.

The court was told she tried to speak to her boss about it several times and even texted him, which was ignored.

In September 2018, although she told her boss she could not work on the Saturdays she had been put on, she was told she would have to organize the exchange herself, the panel heard.

The following month, Ms Keating was forced to ask both WHSmith and her boss to have her daughter escorted to work – a move the panel said indicated her “apparent and significant childcare issues”.

The court found that this should have been a “red flag” for managers, but her boss “disregarded his responsibilities” and did not investigate whether any employees could step in for her.

Then, later that month, she explained that nobody could look after her daughter on a Saturday.

A “frustrated” Mr Cruikshank accepted he told Ms Keating that if he made her skip work on Saturday, everyone else would want the same.

“However, the request of others was not made,” the panel was told.

Ms Keating resigned in October 2018 and Mr Cruikshank later argued in court that he had asked for coverage but she had already resigned.

The panel also noted that there was “lamentably insufficient” information on how many of WHSmith’s staff were women or had childcare responsibilities.

Labor judge Omar Khalil concluded: “It appeared … that there was either laziness and/or a lack of HR support for Mr Cruikshank, alternatively an inadequacy of diversity training.

“Mr. Cruikshank’s disinterest was rooted in his desire for Ms. Keating to swap places with her colleagues or simply find a childcare solution herself.

“It was a surprising neglect of his responsibilities.”

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Justin Scacco

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