Fleet News

Sex bias warning over car allocation policies

FLEET decision-makers have been warned they could be walking into a sex discrimination minefield when creating car allocation policies for employees, following a high-profile court case.

Three former area sales managers for horse feed manufacturer Gro-well Feeds were last week awarded a total of more than £26,000 compensation after they won their sex discrimination and unfair dismissal claims at an employment tribunal.

Part of their claim included the fact that a male colleague was given a better company car than they were.

The tribunal heard the women worked for Wiltshire-based Gro-well Feeds for less than 12 months. Then they were all dismissed, allegedly for poor performance, and then reinstated, before finally being made redundant in June 2002 because the employer said it could no longer afford so many sales staff.

The women, whose case was supported by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), said that a male colleague did not have to submit call reports, as they were, was given a better company car and was provided with a fuel card.

Furthermore, he was not made redundant, although his sales performance was no better than theirs.

The tribunal decided that in the absence of an adequate explanation to the contrary, their employer had committed an unlawful act of discrimination and felt that Gro-well Foods had failed to provide enough evidence to counter the claims.

Jayne Lancashire, from Lincolnshire, was awarded £12,758, Elizabeth Marsden, from Lancashire, was awarded £7,550, and Kim Cox, from Derbyshire, was awarded £5,792 in compensation. The EOC has warned it is up to the employer to ensure that the system for allocating company cars is fair. If people are of the same employment status they should have the same level of vehicle, it says.

Julie Mellor, chairman of the EOC, said: 'This decision highlights the importance of consistency in the way employers treat their staff. Any suggestion that some employees have to meet higher targets than others or do not receive the same perks as colleagues doing the same job leaves the employer vulnerable to claims of discrimination.'

Gro-well Foods declined to comment on the case, but industry experts believe it could have major repercussions on the fleet industry.

Stewart Whyte, director of the Association of Car Fleet Operators (ACFO), said: 'Fleets should always be careful. Fleet policies should not be different to any other policy in the company.'

Fleets were warned to pay particular care with new starters who may be given a short-term vehicle until they finish their probation. If they are overlooked when they receive full-time contracts, they could be left with lower level cars than colleagues on equivalent pay scales.

  • What do you think? Email fleetnews@emap.com
  • Leave a comment for your chance to win £20 of John Lewis vouchers.

    Every issue of Fleet News the editor picks his favourite comment from the past two weeks – get involved for your chance to appear in print and win!

    Login to comment


    No comments have been made yet.

    Compare costs of your company cars

    Looking to acquire new vehicles? Check how much they'll cost to run with our Car Running Cost calculator.

    What is your BIK car tax liability?

    The Fleet News car tax calculator lets you work out tax costs for both employer and employee