JENNI MURRAY: It's time to kill this cult of the hyper sensitive

JENNI MURRAY: It’s time to kill this cult of the hyper sensitive

  • Nirosha Sithirapathy, 31, accused her boss Martin Schmidt of harassments
  • Judge Emma Jane Hawksworth dismissed Nirosha Sithirapath’s claims 
  • UK-based columnist Jenni Murray praises common sense in hypersensitive times

Should you be unfortunate enough to find you’re being paid half as much as a male colleague doing exactly the same type and amount of work as you, then you have a perfect right to be furious and take your employer to court on the grounds of grossly unequal pay.

If, as happened frequently to the younger me in the early stages of my career, some bloke creeps up behind you by the filing cabinets and thinks it’s OK to encircle you with his wandering hands and grasp your breasts, again, you are completely justified in making a claim of sexual harassment and taking him to court.

Regrettably, in my day, it wasn’t an option. My only choice was to slap his face, and mention how well I knew his wife and would have no worries about informing her of his behaviour.

Jenni Murray praises Judge Emma Jane Hawksworth for being courageous enough to apply common sense to a growing problem in these hypersensitive times. Pictured: Nirosha Sithirapathy, who accused her boss of harassment

There has obviously been a great deal of progress in the way the law now redresses serious breaches of equality in the workplace.

Is it always worth getting outraged, hurt and insulted at every slight that might slip out in the office? Definitely not, as was made clear by the judge in the case of Nirosha Sithirapathy, a 31-year-old former employee of science and engineering firm Psi Cro UK.

Ms Sithirapathy claimed harassment when her boss, Martin Schmidt, offered her a job, with a yearly salary of almost £100,000, in their parent firm’s offices in Switzerland. She turned it down.

He asked why, saying, ‘You’re not married, you don’t have children and you do not have a boyfriend.’ He also mentioned that the Swiss branch was tolerant of lesbians.

In his defence, he said he would have made similar comments to a young man if they had turned down such an opportunity.

As the tribunal panel acknowledged, Mr Schmidt’s comments were ‘clumsily put’, but did not warrant 42 claims ranging from discrimination, sexual harassment, harassment relating to age and/or sexual orientation, and victimisation.

Jenni (pictured) said her generation of women never wasted a court’s time or claimed a colleague should be ‘cancelled’ for having made a simple mistake in their use of language

Judge Emma Jane Hawksworth agreed and the claims were dismissed. ‘The comments were unfortunate and awkward,’ she said. ‘However, we bear in mind the importance of not encouraging a culture of hypersensitivity or of imposing legal liability to every unfortunate phrase.’

What a relief that, at last, a judge has been courageous enough to apply common sense to a growing problem in these hypersensitive times, when everyone is terrified of making a joke, offering an opinion or just saying something that is now no longer acceptable.

Being old is no excuse. You have to keep up with these things for fear of being ostracised in the workplace or accused of a ‘non-crime hate incident’ — 120,000 have been logged with the police in the past five years.

My generation of women went through all this some years ago, arguing for Ms to be employed rather than Miss or Mrs, as we didn’t want to be defined by our marital status.

We insisted a grown woman should never be called a girl, ‘working mother’ was a misnomer as all mothers work, and not necessarily outside the home — a preferable term was ‘mother who goes out to work’ — and ‘foetus’ was the acceptable term for ‘unborn child’.

We made our point, hoped we’d be taken seriously and sometimes were, but we would never have wasted a court’s time, argued we’d endured a hate crime or claimed a colleague should be ‘cancelled’ for having made a simple mistake in their use of language. They were, as I recall, ‘kinder’ times.

Do you really need a Chelsea tractor?

Jenni said a sports utility vehicle is for those who live on a farm in the country, while a Mini is the only transport that fits on the city streets 

The correct name is SUV — sports utility vehicle. Chelsea Tractor is the common title used to disparage the huge, lumbering wagons that clutter up our streets, take up far more than their fair share of parking and, probably because the drivers and their kids feel so safe cocooned inside them, are often driven dangerously badly. Pedestrians don’t fare so well when hit by their huge weight, leading to an increase in deaths on the roads, according to a new survey. By all means have one if you live on a farm in the country, but a Mini is the only transport that fits on the city streets.

PC Lancaster’s worth every Penny

Jenni admits her suspicions about Penny Lancaster (pictured) qualifying as a City of London special constable were wrong 

When Penny Lancaster, the wife of multi-millionaire singer Rod Stewart, set out to qualify as a City of London special constable, I had my suspicions that it might be just for show.

I could not have been more wrong. She’s not spending her summer in one of their palatial holiday homes. At the weekend she was out on a distinctly unglamorous 4am shift. Worth every Penny!

Kebabs for jabs? Shish, what rubbish

Of course it’s important, to protect us all from Covid, that young people do not shy away from being vaccinated. But the Government offering cabs, kebabs and pizza as a present to those who agree to be jabbed?

Has the Prime Minister forgotten that, only a couple of weeks ago, he was expressing concern about the dangerous rise in obesity among the young and the need for a revolution in Britain’s unhealthy diet. So common is obesity among teenagers, one important study has highlighted how this generation of children may be the first to die before their parents. We’ve long known how dangerous obesity is — even at the age of only 18 there’s a risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and disability. I’ve heard of dangling a carrot on a stick, but why is an unhealthy kebab or salt-laden pizza considered a suitable incentive for young people to be public-spirited and get jabbed?

Oh, and the cab. Why say it’s OK to be carted off to the vaccination centre in a taxi when what young people should be doing is finding their way there on foot?

Fatty, unhealthy food and no exercise — as a treat! Why solve one health crisis by promoting another? What could be more of a mixed message?

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