”It may be uncharitable, but it’s not unreasonable for an employer to put its own interests above those of the employee”.
Two employees had flexible working requests refused by their employers, so then made sex discrimination claims. The employers won their cases. Here’s why…
Two recent cases
Whiteman v CPS Interiors
The employee, Whiteman, worked as a designer for a commercial property refurbishers.
She was due to return to work at the end of her maternity leave and made three requests: reduced working hours; working in the evenings, and working from home.
Her employer rejected all but her reduced hours request.
The employer reasoned that the other changes would affect the quality of her work. In particular, the business’s team of designers worked together and sometimes designs needed changes at short notice.
In response, Whiteman resigned.
Smith v Gleacher Shacklock LLP
Here, a single parent employee worked as a secretary for an investment bank.
She requested a change to fewer working days as well as working from home one day per week. Her employer refused the request because:
- Her role was unpredictable
- Some tasks had tight deadlines
- Her requested working pattern would place pressure on the small team
- It would impact her ability to look at clients
Again, the employee resigned.
Employment Tribunals’ decisions
In both sex discrimination cases, the Employment Tribunal Judges ruled that the employers were justified in their positions. The needs of the business outweighed any potential advantages of the employee’s requests.
The Judge in the first case said that as long as employers don’t act in a discriminatory way and base their decisions on legally acceptable reasons, they can refuse flexible working requests.
He continued, “Although it may… be uncharitable to do so, it is not unreasonable for an employer to put its own interests above those of the employee”.
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