Jess Varnish’s long-running dispute with British Cycling and UK Sport to go before employment tribunal

Matt McGeehan
The Independent

Jess Varnish’s long-running dispute with British Cycling and UK Sport is to be heard before Manchester Employment Tribunal next week, her legal representative has announced.

Track cyclist Varnish was seeking to compete at the 2016 Rio Olympics, but was removed from the Great Britain team just a few months prior to the Games.

She alleges she was discriminated against and the tribunal, over the first part of her claim, will consider only if, as an athlete in receipt of UK Sport funding, she was self-employed or an employee.

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The case could have repercussions for the hundreds of athletes, across Olympic and Paralympic disciplines, who are backed by UK Sport and their respective national governing bodies.

The hearing will take place from 10-17 December, Simon Fenton, a partner at Constantine Law and representing Varnish, said. Should it be ruled that Varnish was an employee, the parties would reconvene for a tribunal in 2019.

Fenton said in a statement: “It is Varnish’s case that she was an employee (or worker), with the right not to be discriminated against.

“This case comes in a line of decisions from the cases of Uber, Addison Lee and Pimlico Plumbers which show how tribunals are looking at what actually happened in practice rather than simply accepting what is said in the contractual documentation. And they are deciding that the individuals are workers.


Victoria Pendleton, right, backed Jess Varnish's claim of a sexism at British Cycling (Getty)

“If it is decided that Varnish was either an employee or worker, she will have to come back to tribunal some time in 2019 for them to decide whether she suffered sex discrimination.”

Varnish was dropped by British Cycling in April 2016 after the 2016 Track Cycling World Championships in London, after the two-woman, two-rider team sprint squad she was part of failed to qualify for the Rio Olympics.

The athlete, now 28, alleged sex discrimination against Shane Sutton, then the technical director of British Cycling. Sutton resigned and was subsequently found to have used sexist language.

An independent review, jointly commissioned by UK Sport and British Cycling, reported in June 2017. Sutton, UK Sport and British Cycling were strongly criticised in the review.


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