A woman who says her employer denied her request to finish at 5 p.m. so she could collect her daughter from day care won $254,000 after a legal challenge

·2 min read
  • Alice Thompson wanted to work flexibly in order to collect her daughter from day care.

  • Her employer didn't seriously consider her request, so she quit, she told the BBC.

  • A tribunal ruled that she suffered indirect sexual discrimination and awarded her $254,000.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

A real-estate sales manager who said her employer failed to seriously consider her request to work flexibly has been awarded $254,621 (185,000 pounds) at an employment tribunal in the UK.

Alice Thompson asked her employer - the independent UK real-estate agency Manors - if she could reduce her hours after she returned from maternity leave following the birth of her daughter, she told BBC radio. She wanted to finish at 5 p.m., rather than at 6 p.m., so she could pick up her daughter from day care, and she also asked to work a four-day week, she said.

Her employer refused and failed to make a counteroffer, she said. She then resigned from her role in December 2019 and took her employer to an employment tribunal, she said. "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," she told the BBC Radio 4 show "Woman's Hour."

"How are mums meant to have careers and families? It's 2021 not 1971," she said.

She was successful with one of her claims, on the grounds that she suffered indirect sex discrimination when her request for flexible working was not properly considered, the tribunal report said. The tribunal ruled that this put her at a disadvantage to her colleagues. 

The compensation included interest, loss of income, and pension payments, as well as 13,500 pounds "for loss of feelings," the tribunal report said.

But Thompson wasn't successful with all of her claims. For example, she also said she'd been unfairly dismissed and directly discriminated against, which the tribunal rejected.

Thompson said she spent "thousands of pounds" pursuing the case and described the process as exhausting, but she said she ultimately wanted to stand up for what was right for her daughter. 

Under UK employment law, employees with more than 26 weeks of service have a right to ask to work flexibly. Employers have to consider their request, but they can deny it on the grounds that it could be detrimental to the business. 

Additional costs for the business as a result of a request, or an inability to meet customer demand, could be classed as reasonable grounds. 

Manors did not respond to Insider's request for comment.

Working mothers have long faced decades of disadvantage at work, in part because of a lack of appropriate workplace policies and wider support.

COVID-19 has exacerbated the problem, forcing many to leave the workforce altogether and others to suffer high levels of burnout.

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