Flexible Working Requests
In a recent case an employee who was refused a permanent 5pm finish so that she could collect her child from nursery on time has been awarded £185,000
Alice Thompson (T) began working for Manors (M), which is a small firm of estate agents in London with around ten employees, in October 2016.
Like all other staff, T’s working hours were from 9am to 6pm. Her starting salary was £120,000. From 2017, her salary was £60,000 + 12% commission. T was exceptionally good at generating successful sales so maintained her starting salary.
T’s became pregnant and her maternity leave commenced in October 2018. On her return to work in October 2019 T asked to go from working full time to four days a week. She also requested a permanent 5pm finish, instead of 6pm, so that she could collect her daughter from nursery before it closed, but her request was denied.
A director of M, refused this request saying that M could “not afford for her to work part time”. He also cited two other business reasons: a detrimental effect on the ability to meet customer demand and an inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff.
T raised a grievance about her flexible working request being refused which was unsuccessful. She then resigned and issued various tribunal claims including sex discrimination.
All of T’s claims failed bar the one for sex discrimination. This succeeded because the calculations M submitted in respect of affordability didn’t support their reasons for refusal; it hadn’t produced any real evidence as to the detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand and the tribunal didn’t accept that work couldn’t be reorganised amongst a close-knit team.
For this, T was awarded £185,000. However this figure was unusually high as T was on such a high salary was made up of actual loss of earnings, lost pension contributions and interest
So, where a flexible working request is refused on one or more of the accepted business grounds, an employer must have firm evidence to back up each ground of refusal. An employer can’t simply say that extra expense is a likelihood, they must be able to show the real financial impact that the change will have on the business.
The tribunal will expect an account for any savings that you might make from the change, e.g. reduced salary payments, and offset those against any predicted additional costs.
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