The Independent

Monday, August 30, 1999


The Independent

CHIVALRY MAY not be dead after all, at least not in Britain's industrial tribunal courts. Women claiming unfair dismissal are 50 per cent more likely to get a favourable verdict than are men, although the majority of adjudicators are men, according to new research.

One of the theories to explain this is that there is a bias in favour of women because male arbitrators are acting chivalrously, and the researchers warn that, if that is the case, tribunals will have to make sure they are seen to be treating the sexes equally.

The researchers, who plan to publish their findings shortly, looked at unfair dismissal cases at industrial tribunals throughout the country. They did not include sexual discrimination claims, a group of cases that might have distorted the results. Overall they found that 49 per cent of women won their cases compared with 38 per cent of men. When the data was adjusted for age, ethnicity and other factors, women were 50 per cent more likely to gain a positive verdict.

The university researchers in Swansea and Warwick also found that women were more likely to get an offer of settlement from their former employer before their case went before the tribunal.

"What we found was that there was a strong differential in success at tribunals by gender. Female applicants are around 50 per cent more likely to get a favourable verdict than males,'' says Paul Latreille, a lecturer in economics at the University of Wales, Swansea, who did the research, the first of its kind, with Ben Knight, a senior lecturer at Warwick University.

Potential reasons for the differences that are looked at by the researchers include the chivalry of male arbitrators, and the possibility that women have a tougher time in the workplace, leading to a greater risk of unfair dismissal.

"When we looked at the composition make up of the tribunals themselves we found that 77 per cent of the lay members were men and so the idea that the bias is a result of male arbitrators acting chivalrously is a possible explanation,'' said Mr Latreille.

An alternative explanation, he says, is that women come to the tribunal with stronger cases, reflecting harsher treatment in the workplace, leading to a greater probability of unfair dismissal.

The report says that further research in the area is needed, and adds: "If our results reflect female gender bias by predominantly male tribunal panels, tribunals may need to exercise care if they are to preserve their reputation for equality of treatment as well as impartiality between employer and appellant.''