Estate agent wins £185,000 in sex discrimination claim for rejected flexible working request
- Date: Monday 27th September 2021
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An estate agent has won a sex discrimination case after her employer refused to accommodate her request for flexible working. The employee, Ms Thompson, needed to work shorter hours in order to pick up her child from nursery. The standard finish time was 6pm and Ms Thompson requested to leave at 5pm and work four days a week instead of five.
The employee submitted her request whilst on maternity leave from Manors Estate Agency.
A director informed Ms Thompson that her request was rejected stating the business could not afford for her to work part time. The director said that her requested change would have a detrimental effect on the ability to meet customer demand and the company would be unable to reorganise her work among existing staff.
Under employment law an employee has the right to request flexible working after 26 weeks of employment. An employer is not obliged to accommodate such a request but must consider it fairly and cannot display discrimination. In other recent cases, tribunals have found that women – due to their caring responsibilities – are less likely to be able to accommodate certain working patters compared to men.
Ms Thompson argued that the company made no effort to accommodate her childcare needs and did not make counter suggestions on what might have worked for the company and consequently Ms Thompson resigned.
The tribunal found that Ms Thompson’s case was an “injustice because of her sex.” It found she has been discriminated against through the rejection of her request for flexible working. Ms Thompson’s request was not considered properly and was unjust because of her sex.
Ms Thompson was awarded £185,000 (£184, 961) for loss of earnings, pension contributions and injury to feelings.
Learning for employers
- Follow the statutory process for requests for flexible working
- Consider all alternatives to enable a request to be approved
- Make counter offers that will work for your organisation e.g. earlier start times, weekend working, two-week cycles, homeworking etc.
- Confirm counter offers in writing so there is record of what is offered
- Explore cover arrangements with existing team members
- Explore recruitment options to cover any shortfall in hours
- If you decline a request, document the reasons why so you have a record to refer back to if challenged
- Allow an appeal process
- Consider the case law in your decision-making, specifically that for women
Source: Gavin Parrott