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An employment tribunal recently examined the impact of a decision to require a homeworker, who cared for her disabled mother, to work in the office full time. Audrey Williams looks at some lessons for HR.
With many businesses encouraging staff to return to work, the recent case of Follows v Nationwide Building Society is a useful reminder about the care needed when managing the return to the workplace, flexible and hybrid working arrangements, and changes to work patterns.
The judgment was handed down by an employment tribunal but it may also be heard by the Employment Appeal Tribunal. The decision by the employment tribunal still illustrates the increased legal risks, which go further than indirect sex discrimination claims from disadvantaged female workers that have become familiar to organisations.
In this case, the claimant was a carer for her disabled mother and brought disability discrimination claims, including one of indirect disability discrimination despite not being a disabled person herself. The tribunal upheld this claim.
Ms Follows was employed on a homeworking contract as a senior lending manager (SLM) although she did attend the office for meetings and a few days each week. Her role was declared redundant when Nationwide decided that all SLMs should be based in the office rather than homeworkers due to a gradual reduction in commercial real estate lending. Nationwide decided that with less focus on new business and client relationships, the run-down of the lending book was more process driven which needed greater staff supervision by SLMs. They also had feedback from junior staff dissatisfied with the level of supervision.