A female manager’s pay rise request was rejected because bosses felt her husband’s salary was “more than enough”, a tribunal has heard.
Jiang Ping was told by a director that her husband’s high earnings were enough to offset her own salary, after asking bosses at James Durrans & Sons for a raise.
Ping's husband, David Armitage, was a director at the company and earning up to £270,000. Ping herself had been a full-time senior manager, but in 2016 she dropped to part-time hours. According to the tribunal, she felt that her reduced hours were not fully aligned with a lighter workload. She therefore felt she should be earning more than the £36,000 she was receiving at the time of her complaint.
She later raised a grievance regarding the issue, but this was also rejected by another director.
Ping, 69, has now successfully sued the company for sex discrimination.
An Employment Tribunal judge said the firm’s Managing Director, Chris Durrans, had been “inherently discriminatory” when making the comments about the couple’s income.
The tribunal heard that Ping had asked her husband Mr Armitage to raise the salary issue with Durrans.
"Mr Durrans’ response was that he was comfortable with the level of their combined household income,” the tribunal report found.
Ping later emailed Durrans saying that her salary “should reflect her value and significant contribution” to the company and that Durran’s comments that the couple’s “combined household is more than enough” was discriminatory.
These claims were rejected by Nicholas Durrans, brother of Chris and fellow director, who said he didn’t understand “why she said that the comment about the combined household income was sexist”.
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However, the employment judge overseeing the case has ruled that the opposite was in fact true.
Judge Harjit Grewal said: “We concluded that the claimant was subjected to a detriment because her complaint about her level of pay was not considered on its merits.
“It is clear from the reason given for not dealing with it that Mr Durrans’ view was that a married woman cannot challenge her level of earnings if her husband is a high earner. That is a view that is inherently discriminatory against women. Mr Durrans has always denied responding in that way.
“In the absence of any explanation from Mr Durrans for not considering the claimant’s complaint about her level of pay at that stage and the inherently discriminatory nature of the comment that he made, we concluded that in not considering the claimant’s complaint he treated her less favourably on the grounds of sex”.
Judge Grewal added: “The claimant’s evidence was that she had been very upset and angry that Mr Durrans had used that as an excuse to avoid her paying her that to which she was entitled.”
James Durrans & Sons was ordered to pay Ping £4,000 in compensation.
Disrupting sexism in the workplace
Thom Dennis, CEO of culture and leadership specialists, Serenity in Leadership, explains: “Despite seemingly significant progress in terms of women in the workplace, sexist discrimination is still rife.
“The 2022 gender equality report from Randstad surveyed 6,000 workers across construction, education, healthcare and technology in the UK. 72% of female respondents said they encountered inappropriate behaviour from their male counterparts, and 73% stated that their employers were not providing enough support for female employees dealing with menopause. 96% of women felt that having a female manager would either maintain or improve their working day.
“Another research poll published by Samsung Newsroom revealed the prevalence of gender-biased language and stereotypes in professional settings with women nearly three times more likely (42%) to be asked to make the tea than men (16%) and almost three times more likely (43%) to be the recipient of a sexist joke than their male counterparts (15%). 40% have experienced gender-biased language in meetings and 30% during interviews, and 19% said they did not have the confidence to challenge or report gender-biased behaviour at work, despite wanting to.”
Dennis adds: “Whilst these figures compellingly show the need for change, we need more than 50% of the population to be on board to make further progress. It will only be when men challenge the discriminatory behaviour of other men and also ask for equal rights and pay for women, that gender barriers at work will begin to crumble. Following the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements women are justifiably more passionate about the cause but respecting that the time for change is now will encourage action today.”