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Work placements - discrimination

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 Thanks to James Medhurst of Employment Law Advocates for preparing this case summary

Thanks to Laurie Anstis of Boyes Turner, who is standing in for Daniel Barnett this month.

Does an employment tribunal have jurisdiction to hear a discrimination claim about a work placement which is part of a university course?

No, held the EAT in Blackwood v Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust.

The Claimant was a student at Birmingham City University, studying for a diploma in mental health nursing. She undertook a vocational placement with the Trust as part of her course. She was a single mother and, because of her childcare responsibilities, was unable to comply with the shift patterns of the placement, leading the Trust to withdraw it. She claimed indirect sex discrimination.

Claims for discrimination in the provision of vocational training usually fall within the jurisdiction of the employment tribunal. However, section 56(5) of the Equality Act provides an exception where that training is provided through a university which "has the power to afford access" to that training. The EAT held that this provision should be construed widely and so the fact that it was the Trust which terminated the placement did not mean that the University did not have such a power.

It follows that the claim falls within the educational provisions in Part 6 of the Equality Act and has to be pursued in the county court.