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Discrimination case sends flexible working warning

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The high-profile case of an estate agent who won a sex discrimination claim against her employer highlights the importance of businesses considering flexible working requests seriously, says a Midlands employment lawyer.

Kate Jones, an associate at law firm mfg Solicitors, has moved quickly to support employees following the case – urging employers to ensure their processes are properly considered and any requests are handled correctly.

The warning from Mrs Jones comes following the case of London estate agent Alice Thompson who was awarded in excess of £180,000 following an indirect discrimination claim after she returned from maternity leave and her request for flexible working so she could collect her daughter from nursery was turned down - alleging that the meeting to discuss her flexible working lasted under 10 minutes.

Mrs Jones said: “This has been a hugely important case which has seen widespread media exposure. But what it has also shown is how much employees need their employers to listen to their flexible working requests and deal with it professionally.

“We are coming into a post-Covid working world now and I would hope that flexible working requests, especially to help with childcare, are looked upon more favourably than before, considering that hybrid working is becoming the norm.

“But the message is clear to employees, if you feel that you aren’t getting the right access to procedures, or taken seriously about a reasonable request, then legal advice is a very real next step.“Too many employers just want to tick the box and are not properly considering the requests being made. Frankly, it is unacceptable as this recent case shows.”