An employment tribunal has awarded damages of £29,294 in respect of a part-time payroll worker whose employer failed to consider a request for flexible working arrangements.
Employers are under a duty to consider requests for flexible working arrangements seriously, when received from employees with parental responsibility for a child under six (or under eighteen if the child is disabled) and who also have twenty-six weeks continuous service. An employer should respond to an appropriate request for flexible working by arranging a meeting within 28 days to consider the request and notify the employee of their decision within a further 14 days.
The respondent originally employed the employee in question, Ms Giles, in June 2004 on a 16 hour per week contract as a part-time payroll clerk. However, in January 2005 her employer demanded that she start working on a full-time basis. Although Ms Giles presented her employer with a number of potential flexible working arrangements, including sharing her job with another part-time payroll worker on a similar 16 hour per week contract or alternatively, working the additional hours from home, her employer insisted on a minimum of 25 hours per week being worked in the office.
The respondent submitted in defence that the change to a full time position was necessary in response to the rapid growth of the company and the perceived lack of control they would have over Ms Giles if she was to work some of her hours from home. In finding that the respondent had indirectly discriminated against Ms Giles on the basis of sex, the tribunal noted that the employer was wholly unwilling to discuss the issues that gave rise to the claim and had adopted a position that was unreasonable and stuck to it.
The award included £2,000 for aggravated damages in respect of the manner in which the respondent conducted the case. It is also important to note that the award was subject to an uplift of 40% due to the employer's failure to meet the requirements of the statutory grievance procedure by failing to arrange a meeting and offer a right of appeal after the employee had lodged an official grievance.