Tribunal rules refusing pay rise to former Direct Line employee was unfair

Direct Line pay rise
Credit: T. Schneider / Shutterstock.com

A menopausal former Direct Line insurance worker has been awarded £64,645.07 in a disability discrimination case after her boss refused to give her a pay rise amid claims she was “underperforming”.

Maxine Lynskey began working for Direct Line in April 2016 and had no issues until March 2020, when she shared with her employer that she was experiencing menopausal symptoms, which included brain fog and concentration difficulties, particularly in retaining information.

She was transferred to another lower paid role in June, which managers felt would be less challenging for her, but a month later they claimed she was struggling to meet the performance requirements as she was much “less resilient to life’s vicissitudes and frequently tearful”.

In January 2021, Lynskey’s employer told her she would not be receiving a pay rise because her performance had been rated “need for improvement”, and in April commenced formal performance management proceedings against her. HR was informed that there were no “underlying conditions” and that there is not “any mitigation as to why the guidelines for her role are not been followed”.

Lynskey was given a written warning and put on a performance improvement plan. She resigned in May the next year and sued Direct Line for constructive unfair dismissal, sex and age-related harassment and failure to make reasonable adjustments, along with unfavourable treatment connecting to her symptoms of menopause.

Employment Judge Jennifer Maria Wade said: “She had previously had good performance ratings across four annual assessments by the [business]; she had informed them of the reasons she now struggled to retain information, and was emotional; she was mentally impaired because of the symptoms of menopause – there was a clear reason; and she was a disabled person as a result.

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“Need for improvement is inherently unfavourable if the person, through disability, cannot, in fact, improve, or meet the required standards. The menopause and its symptoms were mentioned many times by [Lynskey] during the course of the disciplinary meeting, [but they] appeared not to listen or take in the significance of the explanations [Lynskey] was giving. It is clear a less discriminatory approach could have been taken, including occupational health referral, consideration of other roles, and accepting [Lynskey’s] mitigation, namely her disability.”

Direct Line has been contacted for comment prior to publication.