Mother wins over £180k in indirect discrimination claim
You may have seen in the news recently the case of a mother who was refused a 5pm finish by her employer to deal with childcare arrangements, has been successful in the Employment Tribunal (ET) for indirect discrimination and has been awarded £184,961.32.
Alice Thompson worked for a small estate agent in London. In Spring 2018 she found out she was pregnant and started 12 months of maternity leave in the October. On her return she submitted a flexible working request seeking to change her working week from 5 days to 4 and requesting an earlier finish of 5pm rather than 6pm to balance childcare commitments.
Mrs Thompson submitted that her flexible working request was never considered seriously and refused with no alternatives offered. The employer claimed that the company could not afford for Mrs Thompson to work part-time, as this would have a detrimental effect on meeting their clients’ demands. Mrs Thompson subsequently resigned in December 2019 and issued claims in the ET for maternity/pregnancy discrimination, harassment relating to pregnancy and maternity, unlawful deductions of wages, constructive unfair dismissal, and indirect sex discrimination.
The case was heard by the ET in April 2021 and all Mrs Thompson’s claims failed, save for the one claim of indirect sex discrimination. The ET found that by not agreeing to the flexible working request and making Mrs Thompson work until 6pm, the employer had placed her at a disadvantage when compared to male colleagues.
Following a remedy hearing in August 2021, the employer was ordered to pay compensation of £184,961.32.
Most of this award related to loss of earnings. Mrs Thompson had earned £60,000 whilst working full time, but a reduction was applied to reflect the loss at her part time rate had her flexible working request been granted. In addition, in the previous year she had received a £60,000 bonus. The ET took this bonus, commission, pension contributions and other benefits into consideration when calculating the total award and added interest.
In addition to her loss of earnings, Mrs Thompson was awarded the sum of £13,500 for injury to feelings – the element of compensation for discrimination.
With employers seeing an increasing number of flexible working requests following lockdown, this case is a timely reminder of the importance of treating such requests seriously and the financial risks associated with ignoring them.