Reasons to choose Wilson Browne
Ms A. Thompson brought various claims of discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 against her employer Scancrown Ltd t/as Manors where she was employed as a Sales Manager from October 2016 until late 2019.
Her claim was primarily based on the employer’s refusal to grant her request for flexible working to accommodate her childcare arrangements, whereby she sought shorter working hours to coincide with nursery closing times. There were also several other discriminatory comments that were alleged to have been directed at Ms Thompson after she fell pregnant.
Four out of five of Ms Thompson’s claims failed namely:
• Direct discrimination because of pregnancy or maternity leave
• Harassment because of pregnancy or maternity leave
• Unauthorised deductions (relating to her holiday pay)
• Constructive unfair dismissal
But the claim for indirect sex discrimination under s.19 of the Equality Act 2010 succeeded.
The only defence to such claims are where the employer (or Respondent) is able to show that its actions were a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
While the employer had sought to rely on some of the prescribed statutory grounds for refusing a flexible working request, the Tribunal held that they failed to put forward sufficient justification to assert those grounds. In its judgment, the Tribunal states:
“Our conclusion is that the Respondent has not shown that refusal of the proposed reduction in hours of work was proportionate to the real need of the business to maintain successful relations with customers.”
The total of £184,961.32 includes interest, past and future loss of income, pension contributions and £13,500.00 for injury to feelings.
While the legislation (part 8A s.80G of the Employment Rights Act 1996) does set out lawful grounds for refusing a flexible working request, employers should not automatically declare its reliance on them. Thorough consideration must be given to an employee’s request and if you are unsure on the reasonableness of asserting those reasons to justify a refusal, always seek specialist legal advice.
Please note, this is a first-tier Tribunal ruling and therefore, it may not be binding legal precedent but it does give an interesting insight to their initial approach on such matters. There is no news of an appeal being submitted as of yet but it is suspected that the Respondent will seek to reverse the costly decision.