Bus driver who lost job for ‘being too short’ reinstated after appeal

Tracey Scholes was offered another role which would have led to a loss of working hours and pay

Aisha Rimi
Tuesday 18 January 2022 18:36
<p>Tracey Scholes was the first female bus driver at the Manchester depot and has been worked there for 34 years  </p>

Tracey Scholes was the first female bus driver at the Manchester depot and has been worked there for 34 years

A woman who was dismissed from her job as a bus driver for “being too short” has been reinstated, the bus operator said.

Tracey Scholes lost her job when the redesign of the bus meant that she could no longer drive it safely due to her height.

The bus operator’s design changes included moving the buses’ wing mirrors so she could no longer “reach the pedals to drive” without a blind spot appearing, essentially designing Ms Scholes out of her job.

Ms Scholes, who is a widow and mother of three, had to lean around a pillar to see the mirrors which meant she couldn’t keep her feet on the pedals.

The 57-year-old who stands at 5 feet tall has now returned to her job after her employer, Go Ahead Group, agreed to her trade union, Unite’s demand for her hours and her pay to be protected.

Following an appeal, she faced dismissal and was offered another role on the company’s schools buses which were fitted with more suitable mirrors. However, Ms Scholes would have had to accept losing five hours in pay a week which was the equivalent of £230 a month. She turned down this offer and was subsequently given notice by the operator.

In November last year, Go North West ruled that Ms Scholes no longer had the capability to drive some buses.

She made a final appeal for her job on 11 January and a week later the transport provider offered her the 52 bus route with a guaranteed 25-hour working week.

Go North West claimed it had offered Ms Scholes “numerous proposals” to keep her employed by the company.

She launched an appeal that garnered a lot of support, including from celebrities who urged the company to keep her current pay and hours.

More than 25,000 people signed a petition calling for Ms Scholes to be reinstated in her role. A number of supporters gathered outside the bus depot in Manchester where the appeal was taking place.

In a statement released by Go North West, HR director Scott Maynard said the company was “pleased” the “valued and long-serving driver” was to stay with Go North West “after she decided to accept an offer to drive different buses as per a proposal made in September”.

Mr Maynard added: “We have said from the start we wanted to keep Tracey and we are glad that she has changed her mind and decided to stay.”

He said the company “operates no height restrictions on recruitment, and has multiple drivers of the same height, or below, as Tracey”.

“It is categorically untrue that we would, or could, have threatened anybody with dismissal on grounds of height.”

According to her new contract, Ms Scholes will start earlier to allow her to pick up a bus with wing mirrors of her preference while her weekly hours and rate of pay will remain the same.

Unite general secretary, Sharon Graham said: “Tracey Scholes is back in the driving seat where she belongs. Tracey’s supporters have good reason to celebrate. Go Ahead have finally come to their senses and agreed to Unite’s demand for Tracey’s hours and pay to be protected.

“It is a great victory and a testimony to Tracey’s spirit, and the solidarity of all her union colleagues, to secure this change of mind by her Go Ahead employers.

“The bus company could have avoided all the damage to its reputation here and all over the globe. Instead, the company allowed its local management to procrastinate and blunder.  As the first woman bus driver at the Manchester depot, with 34 years unblemished service, Tracey deserved to be treated with dignity. It’s terrific news that she can continue to drive her bus.”

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