Manchester bus driver dismissed for being ‘too short’ given job back after appeal

A woman who was dismissed after she flagged that she was “too short” to drive safely due to a bus redesign has been reinstated, the bus operator has said.

Tracey Scholes, one of Greater Manchester’s first female bus drivers, who is 5ft (1.52m) tall, said Go North West’s changes meant she could no longer reach the pedals on the new model of bus used on her route without a blind spot appearing when she leaned backwards to use the wing mirrors.

After raising concerns with her employer, she was initially suspended and later dismissed with 12 weeks’ notice.

The 57-year-old, who has been a bus driver for 34 years, made a final appeal for her job on 11 January.

The bus firm said it was glad that Scholes had accepted a deal to drive other buses, and described her as a “valued and long-serving driver”, stressing that Scholes would now keep her job “after she decided to accept an offer to drive different buses as per a proposal made in September”.

Scholes had said before her appeal that thanks to support from her union, Unite, the company had offered her different routes with buses that she is able to drive, but with fewer hours and less pay than in her previous contract.

More than 25,000 people signed a petition calling for Scholes to be reinstated and a crowd of supporters gathered outside the Queens Road bus depot in Cheetham Hill, Manchester, where the appeal hearing took place.

Scholes had previously spoken of the emotional strain she suffered during the ordeal, and revealed that she had “put everything on hold financially” as she felt unable to plan for the future.

The widow and mother of three told BBC North West Tonight before the hearing: “I’ve never had a problem driving the vehicles in 34 years, but they’ve moved one of the mirrors on certain vehicles [ …] and it’s caused a blind spot for me.”

Scott Maynard, the firm’s group HR director, said in a statement that Scholes’ weekly hours and rate of pay would be the same on her new route, and that she would start earlier so she could pick out a bus with wing mirrors of her preference. “We have said from the start that we wanted to keep Tracey and we are glad that she has changed her mind and decided to stay,” he said.

He added that 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.”

A Go North West spokesperson had previously said Scholes was a valued member of the team and that the company had made “numerous proposals to accommodate” Scholes, but that the suggestions were rejected, adding that the company was “sorry that we were left with no choice but to bring this driver’s employment to an end,” a decision that, Scholes said, “broke my heart”.

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