British Red Cross accused of discrimination

Employment tribunal hears claims from former staff member

A former British Red Cross employee has claimed she was unfairly dismissed by the humanitarian organisation and suffered race, age and disability discrimination.

An employment tribunal yesterday heard how Jackie Rutherford, a service assistant, was made redundant last year during the third phase of a restructure affecting the charity's London operation. 

Rutherford, who lives and worked in Essex, was offered the opportunity to apply for other positions at the charity's centre at Beckenham, Kent but refused to apply.

She claimed the move would add three hours to her daily commute and £76 per month travel costs and that she should have been offered more suitable opportunities that made it easier for her to care for her disabled husband.

She also claimed that the London branch of the British Red Cross was getting rid of a lot of older women and that the consultation period for redundancies, which affected 17 other members of staff, was "a sham".

Rutherford, a black woman of Guyanese origin, claims she would have been treated differently had she been a white woman.

Two former British Red Cross employees have agreed to support her as witnesses.

Pamela Chapman, operations manager for the London area of the British Red Cross, told the tribunal at Stratford, East London, that Rutherford had been treated no differently than any other member of staff. "A genuine redundancy situation appeared to exist," said Chapman. "The claimant alleges the consultation was a sham. It was not."

She said the charity had extended the consultation period and appointed an independent manager to oversee the restructuring process. "I absolutely refute any allegation of discrimination," said Chapman.

The hearing is scheduled to finish on Friday.


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