Discrimination at Work due to Marital Status...

Discrimination at Work due to Marital Status...

What constitutes Direct Discrimination in the law?

With regards to the Equality Act 2010 it is unlawful for a person to treat those with 'protective characteristics' less favourably than they would treat others.

There are nine protective characteristics:

  • Age

  • Race

  • Disability

  • Gender re-assignment

  • Marriage and Civil partnership

  • Pregnancy

  • Maternity

  • Religion or belief

  • Sexual orientation

Reported cases with regards to marriage and civil partnership discrimination are rare and is overlooked as a protected characteristic.

Vaishali Thakerar of Lawson-West Solicitors explores the reason Employment Appeal Tribunal case of Ellis -v- Bacon and Advances Fire Solutions Limited which is a useful reminder of this application and narrow scope.


Ms Bacon joined Advance Fire Solutions Limited as a bookkeeper in 2005 and she later married Jonathan Bacon, the Managing Director and majority shareholder and became a director and shareholder herself. 

Mr Ellis then became Managing Director in 2017 Jonathon Bacon continued to be a majority shareholder.  That year Ms Bacon commenced divorce proceedings against Jonathan Bacon.  As a part of this proceedings Jonathan Bacon made false accusations against her that she had misused company IT.  Due to these allegations Miss Bacon was subjected to unfair treatment suspended and ultimately dismissed by Mr Ellis.  Ms Bacon raised an Employment Tribunal claim for unfair dismissal and unlawful discrimination on the grounds of her marital status.


The Tribunal found that Mr Ellis had sided with Jonathan Bacon in their marital dispute which was a factor in dismissing Ms Bacon.  The Employment Tribunal concluded that Mr Ellis had distanced himself from Ms Bacon following her separation from Jonahtan Bacon and that she was unlawfully discriminated against on the grounds of her marital status.  Mr Ellis then appealed the Tribunal’s decision.


The Employment Appeals Tribunal allowed the Appeal and found that the Employment Tribunal had focused on Ms Bacon’s marriage to Jonathan Bacon rather than the fact that she was married.  The questions for the Employment Tribunal is whether the unmarried woman whose circumstances or otherwise are the same as hers i.e. being in a close relationship with Mr Bacon would have been treated differently which was not satisfied.



Vaishali Thakerar

Vaishali Thakerar, Director & Employment Solicitor
Lawson-West Solicitors, Leicester

"This case reminds us that the question to ask in marital status discrimination claims is whether the individual was treated unfavourably due to the marital status in isolation not because they were married to a particular person.

It is very common in employment disputes where emotions, relationships and families are involved that the waters become muddied. Employers should be satisfied that the risk of a claim and associated management time and financial costs required to deal with these still exists."

If you are an employee who feels that you have been discriminated against due to your marital status then please Contact Us. We're here to help and advise you in your employment matter. 


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