Flexible Working Requests following Maternity Leave - New test cases

Flexible Working Requests following Maternity Leave - New test cases

  • Date: Thursday 27th October 2016

Two recent unsuccessful claims following the refusal of flexible working requests have proven that these have to be seriously considered, but can be turned down. 

In Whiteman v CPS Interiors Ltd and others, Ms Whiteman, a new mother, requested working from home on her return from maternity leave. The company responded, saying that home working would not be in the interest of the organisation, since designers benefit from working together and sharing ideas in the workplace.

In Smith v Gleacher Shacklock LLP, Ms Smith claimed indirect sex discrimination because she was not allowed to change her shift patterns and workplace. Job share was denied since handovers would have proven difficult and, in the eyes of the company, would have had a negative impact on client care. Ms Smith is a single mother and argued that she was being put at a disadvantage, compared to her male counterparts.

Key in both cases:

  • The employers followed their procedures or the statutory process for flexible working requests.
  • The employers did genuinely and objectively consider the pros and cons of each request.
  • Specific examples were given of situations where the flexible working suggestions would not work in practice (ie Ms Smith, working on flexible hours before, actually missed an important Regulator call, which could have resulted in legal issues for the company).
  • Alternatives were suggested to the individuals, ie reduction in hours or delayed start times to accommodate nursery drop-offs.

The court rulings suggest that, as long as an employer can demonstrate a general openness to flexible working, and the will to accommodate, it is perfectly acceptable to put business needs before the individual’s.

Source: Manuela Grossmann - SSG

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