A train company was guilty of sex discrimination when it refused flexible working requests from one of its few female drivers, an Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has ruled.

The claimant, who has not been named because of an anonymity order, had been employed as a train driver/instructor with the rail firm.

She was one of very few women to hold this post (just 17 drivers out of more than 550 were female.)

While the woman’s rota involved both anti-social hours and weekend shifts, she had requested a more flexible arrangement because she was having difficulties juggling the job with looking after her children – having recently become a single mother.

The company had initially rejected her requests, arguing that it would be unfair on her colleagues to hand her only the family-friendly shifts. Eventually an agreement was made to alter her shift pattern, but not along the lines she had asked for.

This prompted the woman to bring a claim of indirect sex discrimination, with the argument that the requirements of the job disadvantaged women.

Her arguments were accepted by an initial Employment Tribunal and a subsequent EAT hearing, both of which accepted the evidence that women were generally more likely to have caring responsibilities than men.