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Victimisation and disability discrimination sees apprentice awarded £52,000

After victimisation and discrimination because of her dyscalculia, an apprentice digital media executive has been awarded over £52,000. People who suffer from dyscalculia have difficulty understanding math problems and often struggle with numbers.

The apprentice provider was ordered to pay more than £50,000 after she was discriminated against during a functional skills exam.  

Judge Rhodri McDonald from the Manchester Employment Tribunal ruled that Miss Molyneaux's dismissal was significantly influenced by her allegations of sexual harassment.

Apprentify Limited was found to have breached the Equality Act when they fired the claimant in August 2022.

The tribunal ruled that Apprentify had failed to make reasonable adjustments for Miss Molyneaux, and this had hindered her ability to complete her apprenticeship or find other employment.

Apprentify, set up in Cheshire in 2016 by Paul Drew, started to deliver apprenticeships in 2018. They provide nationwide online apprenticeships for over 300 apprentices who study mostly level 3 content production and digital marketing.

Miss Molyneaux joined the company in May 2022 and at the time was suffering from depression and anxiety. She also suffers from dyscalculia. She began her career with Apprentify as a social media executive. She was already enrolled into a digital marketing apprenticeship.

Dependant on her passing a level 2 functional skills maths exam, she had been scheduled to complete her apprenticeship in September 2022. Unfortunately, a month after joining, Miss Molyneaux failed her mock maths exam. She was fired on August 3rd.

The tribunal judge ruled that Apprentify had treated the claimant unfavourably because she had failed the exam. The company had also failed to make reasonable adjustments which would have improved her chances of passing the exam.

The claimant told the tribunal that she had an additional learning support plan and functional tutors to assist her in preparing for the exam, but the company had given her no notice of when the mock exam would take place. This added to the pressure she felt she was placed under.

The judge asked for more specific evidence of the likelihood of her passing if Apprentify had made reasonable adjustments.

 The claimant told the tribunal that she had been seen as a troublemaker after she had reported incidents of sexual harassment and bullying. She also felt that her dismissal was a breach of the Equality Act on the grounds of discrimination.

Apprentify Group chief executive Jonathan Fitchew apologised to the claimant for the distress they had caused because of their failure to consider her learning needs.

Apprentify, at the time, felt that they had taken all the steps needed to support her in completing her studies. They did acknowledge that they had fallen short in her case.

Mr Fitchew said that the company had learned some valuable lessons and now had a more robust system in place, along with new processes and a new HR director. This would ensure better future support for all their staff in their apprenticeship experiences.

When considering the amount of compensation, the tribunal felt that no correct disciplinary process had been followed during her dismissal. She had also been victimised for making a protected disclosure regarding sexual harassment allegations, causing her to be regarded as a troublemaker.

Miss Molyneaux was awarded £52,348.25, calculated as loss of earnings until she should have graduated, and injury to her feelings. 

A few weeks after her dismissal Ofsted inspected Apprentify and they were issued a glowing report and awarded an outstanding grade. 

Despite the positive report, inspectors said that leaders at Apprentify were aware that some apprentices who needed functional skills in maths and English were not receiving the support they deserved. Because of this, they did not always pass the functional skills examinations.

Miss Molyneaux commented that the Ofsted inspection had ‘clearly avoided ongoing staff grievance issues.’

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