A mother who was sacked because her employers felt that caring for her daughter was more important to her than her job has been awarded £18,886 in compensation.
Maria McKeith started working part-time for the Ardoyne Association in Northern Ireland in 2010 while also acting as primary carer for her daughter. She was dismissed in 2015.
The Employment Tribunal found that the dismissal was unfair under the Disability Discrimination Act and that the association “did not put forward any convincing or coherent explanation for its decision”.
It said that her managers took the view that because she “had a disabled child, her position was not properly in the workplace. Her daughter was her priority”.
The judge said: “That is not the legal position. People who are disabled themselves, or who are the primary carer of a disabled person, have a right to work within the protection afforded by the 1995 Act.”
The Court of Appeal upheld that decision.
Speaking after the hearing, Ms McKeith said she was left in shock when she lost her job. “I did not ask for any special treatment and I did not welcome it.
“I enjoyed coming to work, meeting people and being able to advise and help them and I knew my daughter was being cared for while I was at work.”
Dr Michael Wardlow, Chief Commissioner of the Equality Commission, said the Disability Discrimination Act not only protects people against discrimination because of their disability, it also
protects people in Ms McKeith’s position, who have a role as primary carer for a disabled person.
Speaking to the BBC, he said: “In this case, Ms McKeith was denied the opportunity to work as a result of her daughter’s disability. The law makes such discrimination unlawful.
“It is important also, as was referenced in these proceedings, to highlight that the purpose of the law is to assist disabled people and their primary carers to obtain work and to integrate them in to the workplace.
“That is not a matter simply of money, but the dignity of, and the respect due to, the people concerned.”
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