The case of Thompson v Scancrown Ltd, trading as Manors hit the national headlines in September because the employee concerned, an Estate Agent, was awarded £184,961.32 in compensation by an Employment Tribunal who upheld her claim of indirect sex discrimination. The Tribunal also awarded her £13,500 for injury to feelings.
In anticipation of her return from maternity leave, Mrs Thomson made a request for flexible working, including a request to finish at 5pm rather than 6pm. Her request was rejected by her manager who cited several of the legitimate business reasons for refusal set out in the legislation. The Tribunal found that requiring Thompson to work until 6pm – which is the time when nurseries typically close – placed her at a disadvantage because of sex, and this requirement could not be objectively justified.
This case serves as a good reminder to employers of the importance of always considering the potential discrimination risks when assessing a flexible working request, rather than merely focusing on following the requirements of the Acas Code of Practice on making and responding to flexible working requests.