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Discrimination: Work Placements

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 Thanks to Will Young of Outer Temple Chambers for preparing this case summary

Does section 56(5) of the Equality Act 2010 prevent a claim being brought in the employment tribunal against the provider of vocational training in respect of discrimination in the provision of that training?

No, held the Court of Appeal in the case of Blackwood v Birmingham & Solihull Mental Health NHS Trust.

The Claimant was assigned a work placement with the Defendant Trust as part of her University Course in Mental Health nursing. She was not able to work the shift pattern offered because of her childcare commitments, and her placement was withdrawn.

The Claimant brought a claim against the Trust in the employment tribunal, relying on section 55 of the Equality Act, but the employment tribunal dismissed the claim on the basis that it was precluded by section 56(5), which, in summary, was thought to prevent claims being brought by students of universities (et al) in relation to training to which their university had the power to afford access, even where no claim could in fact be made against the university.

The Court of Appeal held that section 56(5) needed to be interpreted in line with the EU Directive, reading into the subsection that a claim could not be brought in the employment tribunal against an education service provider concerning training for university students but only "to the extent that the student is entitled under [section 91] to make a claim as regards that discrimination."

Thus a lacuna in the law was removed in that if a Claimant cannot, in the circumstances, bring a claim against the university arranging the vocational training under section 91 Equality Act (in the County Court), she is now entitled to bring a claim against the training provider in the employment tribunal.