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Significant financial award for a mother who was refused her flexible working request

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Female banker in unequal pay dispute with her employer

It is reported that the employment tribunal has recently ruled in favour of a mother who requested flexible working hours due to childcare reasons. It is understood that the claimant was awarded £184,961 in compensation by the employment tribunal for injury to feelings, loss of earnings, and loss of pension income.

In the recent case of Mrs A Thompson v Scancrown Ltd T/a Manors [2205199/2019], it was reported that Mrs Thompson worked as a Sales Manager for a small independent London-based estate agents. It is understood that she became pregnant in October 2018, and subsequently commenced maternity leave.

Upon her return to work, it is understood that the claimant submitted a flexible working request to shorten her hours to work a four day week, and to finish at 5pm rather than the business’ standard finishing time of 6pm. The basis for the request is understood to have been that the claimant’s new childcare responsibilities would require her to collect her daughter from nursery throughout the week. 

It is understood that the company declined her request for flexible working, on the basis that the company could not afford for her to work part-time. The claimant subsequently resigned from her employment, and commenced proceedings against her employer within the employment tribunal, for pregnancy and maternity discrimination, harassment, unfair dismissal and indirect sex discrimination.

It is reported that during the hearing it was heard that management had exhibited a negative response to her pregnancy in 2018. It was alleged that a Company Director had said to a colleague at a party: “I was warned about employing a married woman of her age.”

It is reported that the claimant confirmed the details of her maternity leave in October 2018, and provided management with a document pertaining to her 11 ongoing deals for which she had anticipated to receive commissions. However, the company decided that she would only receive commission on those deals registered within the document up to her last day prior to the commencement of her maternity leave and those completed after she returned to work.

Additionally, the employee claimed that she was made to feel as though she was leaving the business when she commenced her maternity leave, due to the fact that she was informed to return her office keys and mobile phone.

It is reported that the employment tribunal who heard the case upheld the employee’s complaint of indirect sex discrimination. The tribunal accepted that ‘notwithstanding an encouraging shift in societal attitudes, it is still the case that mothers are more likely to carry primary responsibility than fathers’, with reference to the report of 2018, conducted by Direct Line Insurance, titled: ‘Battle of the sexes – Mums still bearing the brunt of childcare’.

This case highlights the importance of considering submitted requests, whilst following a fair process for the acceptance of flexible working.

If you feel that you have been discriminated against as a result of your gender, status as a married person or your pregnancy, you may be able to bring a claim for discrimination under the terms of the Equality Act 2010, however there are strict time limits within which courts/tribunals will accept such claims. If you believe that you may have been subjected to discrimination, please contact our specialist discrimination and employment solicitors, without delay, for further advice on 0161 696 6170.

By Ambre Williams, employment and discrimination advisor