Tracey Scholes, aged 57, joined Manchester bus company, Go North West (the Company), in 1987 and was the first and only female employee at the Company.
After 34 years of service at the Company, she was dismissed because she lacked the capability to drive the new model of bus used on her route. Ms Scholes is 1.52m (5 feet) tall and the new model of the bus created a change in the position of the wing mirrors and meant that she would have to lean back to use them, leaving her unable to reach the foot pedals.
Ms Scholes raised concerns with her employer and she was initially suspended then later dismissed with 12 weeks’ notice. She had support from her union, Unite, who helped to get her employer to offer her different routes using the buses that she was able to drive, however, the hours and pay were less than in her previous contract of employment.
Unite’s general secretary called for Tracey Scholes to be reinstated on full pay and full hours.
The Guardian reported a Go North West spokesperson said that Scholes was a valued member of the team and they had made numerous proposals to accommodate her but they were rejected. The spokesperson also said that:
“Driving seats and mirrors on all our vehicles are adjustable to suit each individual’s stature. We have 13,000 bus drivers UK-wide of varying height, including a number who are five foot or below, and only one driver has raised a concern”.
Ms Scholes also commented that over the years she worked at the Company, she experienced issues as a result of the industry being male-dominated. When she first joined the Company, she was told that there were no toilets she could use and was also questioned as to how she would handle “the bad language”.
Scholes also stated that:
“I’ve had comments, sexual remarks, a lot of things. And I’ve dealt with that. I’ve not gone to management – I’ve gone and solved it and hit it head-on”
Ms Scholes faced a final appeal against the decision last week. Since the decision was made, a petition in support of her has received more than 27,000 signatures and she has received support from colleagues and celebrities around the country.
How can Nelsons help?
Charlotte Dowdy is a Trainee Solicitor at Nelsons.
For advice on or further information in relation to the subjects discussed in this article, please contact Charlotte or a member of our expert Employment Law team in Derby, Leicester or Nottingham on 0800 024 1976 or via our online form.Contact us