A part-time payroll worker whose employer demanded she start working full-time and refused to consider suitable flexible work options has been awarded £29,294 in damages by the Southampton Employment Tribunal.
Her case was supported by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC). The award included an extra £2,000 in aggravated damages for the manner in which the case was conducted by the respondents. The tribunal said this treatment added “insult to the injury already suffered”.
In June 2004, Jane Giles was hired as a part-time payroll clerk on a 16-hours-per-week contract by Cornelia Care Homes, a Hampshire-based company. A single parent with a two-year-old son, Giles took the part-time position to be able to meet her childcare responsibilities.
However, in January of 2005, her employer demanded that she start working full-time.
Giles presented her employers with several reasonable flexible work options, including sharing her job with another part-time payroll worker on a similar 16-hour contract — bringing the total number of hours close to that of a full time position — or working the additional hours from home. Her employer refused, demanding that she work a minimum of 25 hours per week in the office. This left her no other option but to resign.
In its defence, Cornelia Care Homes argued that the change to a full-time position was necessary due to “the rapid growth of the company”, and that it would have little control over Giles if she worked at home.
The tribunal said Cornelia Care Homes was guilty of indirect discriminating against Giles on the basis of sex. Furthermore, the tribunal increased the award by 40% because Cornelia Care Homes ignored the official grievance filed by Giles.
Jenny Watson, acting chair of the EOC said: “Forward-looking employers are already recognising men and women’s caring responsibilities, adopting innovative approaches to flexible work and seeing the results of pro-active efforts to attract and retain talented staff in their bottom line. As this case demonstrates, failing to do so can have costly consequences.
An EOC report earlier this year into part-time and flexible work found that half of women working part-time are working in jobs below their proven potential.