Employment Tribunal awards Claimant almost £30,000 after flexible working request rejected (Giles v Geach and Jones t/a Cornelia Care Homes – ET/3100720/05)

In the case of Giles v Geach and Jones t/a Cornelia Care Homes (ET/3100720/05) the Employment Tribunal held that Ms Giles’ employer had discriminated against her by imposing a requirement that she must work 25 hours per week in the office, awarding her almost £30,000 in compensation.

The facts in Giles v Geach and Jones t/a Cornelia Care Homes

Ms Giles worked for Cornelia Care Homes as a payroll clerk. She had young children and, at the commencement of her employment, worked 16 hours per week so that she could deal with her childcare responsibilities as well as her professional commitments. However, after a change to her duties she began working an additional 16 hours per week overtime, the bulk of the overtime work being undertaken from home.

In January 2005 Mr Geach approached Ms Giles and informed her that he wanted her to work full-time (35 hours per week) in the office from April 2005. Mr Geach gave no explanation as to why there needed to be a change in the working arrangements and there was no consultation on the proposed changes.

Ms Giles informed Mr Geach that she could work full-time if she was allowed to work part-time in the office and the rest of the time at home. The organisation did not reply to this request and Ms Giles subsequently handed in her notice of termination.

After Ms Giles handed in her notice of termination Cornelia Care Homes informed her that it could reduce the number of hours that she would have to work in the office to 25 hours per week, but that she must be in the office for that period of time each week. Ms Giles replied that she had previously been able to deal with queries herself by telephone or using her computer, and that she did not see why it was necessary to work 25 hours per week in the office. She submitted a flexible working request that she work 16 hours per week in the office, with the remainder to be worked at home, but this was rejected.

Ms Giles then sent a detailed grievance to the organisation complaining about the change in requirements and the lack of flexibility that the organisation was showing, but she received no response to this.

Ms Giles subsequently brought a claim in the Employment Tribunal for indirect sex discrimination.

The law relating to indirect sex discrimination

Under section 19 Equality Act 2010 indirect discrimination occurs if:

  • A policy, criterion or provision (“PCP”) is applied to B;
  • which is applied to persons with whom B does not share a protected characteristic; and
  • which puts persons with whom B shares the protected characteristic at a particular disadvantage as compared to persons who do not possess the protected characteristic; and
  • puts, or would put, B at that disadvantage; and
  • A cannot show that the PCP is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim

The decision of the Employment Tribunal

The Employment Tribunal upheld Ms Giles’ claim for indirect sex discrimination, holding:

  • That Cornelia Care Homes had imposed a PCP that she could only retain her position if she worked 25 hours full-time in the office in a job-share and no less than 25 hours per week;
  • That Ms Giles had therefore been subjected to indirect sex discrimination; and
  • That the organisation’s defence of ‘objective justification’ was not successful as there was not a legitimate aim in imposing the requirement and the means used to achieve the aim were not proportionate

The Employment Tribunal awarded the Claimant £29,294.19 in compensation, comprised of:

  • Injury to feelings: £5,000;
  • Compensation for loss of earnings: £14,495.85;
  • Increase of 40% to reflect serious breach of statutory grievance procedure: £7,798.34; and
  • Aggravated damages: £2,000

Our solicitors’ views on Giles v Geach and Jones t/a Cornelia Care Homes

Chris Hadrill, specialist employment solicitor in the employment team at Redmans, commented on the case: “This case shows that employers should think carefully before imposing any form of requirement that employees must conform to particular requirements, as this could potentially result in a successful discrimination claim being brought in the Employment Tribunal (as was the case with this claim.”