Police authority’s abolition creates quandary

Posted: 11th February 2016

PoliceWorkers who suffer discrimination are entitled to claim compensation after leaving their jobs – but what happens if their employer has in the meantime ceased to exist? The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) tackled that tricky issue in a case arising from the abolition of a police authority.

Ms Butterworth had worked for the Greater Manchester Police Authority for 15 years before her departure under the terms of a negotiated settlement. Eighteen months later, the authority ceased to operate and its functions – as well as its property, rights and liabilities – were taken over by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCCO) pursuant to the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011.

The claimant launched Employment Tribunal (ET) proceedings against the PCCO and the elected commissioner, claiming that she had endured sex discrimination, harassment and victimisation at the hands of the authority. She had never been employed by either the PCCO or the commissioner and the ET rejected her claim on the basis that it had no jurisdiction to entertain it.

In dismissing her challenge to that ruling, the EAT found that the authority’s duty not to discriminate was not amongst the liabilities which had been inherited by the PCCO and the commissioner. Had that been Parliament’s intention, the Act would have stated so in terms. The EAT acknowledged that Ms Butterworth had been deprived of a legal remedy which would potentially have been open to her had the authority continued to exist. However, it rejected arguments that the result of the case conflicted with domestic and European anti-discrimination principles.