“It’s 2021, not 1971.”
A mum who was refused her request to work shorter hours in order to pick her daughter up from nursery has won £185,000 in court.
Alice Thompson ended up resigning from her role as an estate agent after her employer turned down her request to work a four-day week and finish at 5pm instead of 6pm.
She had made the request following her return from maternity leave, but was told by her manager that the estate agency couldn’t afford for her to work the reduced hours.
An employment tribunal has now ruled she suffered indirect sex discrimination as a result of the company refusing to consider her request.
“I made a request for flexible working that wasn’t seriously considered,” Thompson told the BBC. “I proposed what would have worked for me.
“If that didn’t work for the company, I would have been more than happy to hear a counter offer, what might work for them. If they needed me for the full hours, maybe eight ’til five instead of nine ’til six, that’s something I could have worked around.
“But it was shut down, every avenue, not listened to, not considered. And I was left with no other option but to resign,” she said. “How are mums meant to have careers and families? It’s 2021, not 1971.”
The tribunal upheld her claim on the basis that the agency’s refusal to consider more flexible working put her at a disadvantage.
She was awarded almost £185,000 for loss of earnings, loss of pension contributions, injury to feelings and interest.
“Losing a job unexpectedly is always a cause of unhappiness, shock, and sometimes anger, as shown by the way many employees react to redundancy, even when there has been proper consultation, and even when it is never suggested their performance was not good enough,” the tribunal found.
“Here the claimant resented that flexible working appeared not to be considered properly – as in our finding it was not – and felt that this was an injustice because of her sex, which it was.”
Thompson said she was determined to pursue the legal challenge despite the cost in order to “stand up for what is right.”
“I’ve got a daughter and I didn’t want her to experience the same treatment in 20, 30 years’ time, when she’s in the workplace,” she said.
The tribunal dismissed other claims made by Thompson regarding her treatment, including harassment and discrimination because of pregnancy and maternity.