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UK: Payout for suppressed mom

Alice ThompsonALICE THOMPSON

Alice Thompson wanted to work shorter hours to pick her daughter up from nursery, but ended up resigning.

The former estate agent spent tens of thousands of pounds pursuing the case against her former employer.

She was awarded £185,000 by an employment tribunal and this week told the BBC it was “a long, exhausting journey”.

The tribunal ruled she had suffered indirect sex discrimination when the firm refused to consider her request.

Ms Thompson was a successful sales manager at a small independent estate agents in central London before she became pregnant in 2018.

“I’d put my heart and soul into an estate agency career for more than a decade,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour.

“That’s no mean feat, it’s quite a male dominated environment to work in. And I’d worked really hard to build relationships with clients.”

When she wanted to return to work after maternity leave, she asked her employer if she could work shorter hours, a four day week, and leave at 5pm, rather than the normal end-of-day at 6pm, to pick her daughter up from nursery.

Her manager said they couldn’t afford for her to work part time.

“I made a request for flexible working that wasn’t seriously considered,” Ms Thompson says.

“I proposed what would have worked for me. If that didn’t work for the company, I would have been more than happy to hear a counter offer, what might work for them.

“If they needed me for the full hours, maybe eight ’til five instead of nine ’til six, that’s something I could have worked around.

“But it was shut down, every avenue, not listened to, not considered. And I was left with no other option but to resign.

“How are mums meant to have careers and families? It’s 2021 not 1971.”

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She said she was motivated to pursue the legal challenge in order to prompt change.

“I’ve got a daughter and I didn’t want her to experience the same treatment in 20, 30 years’ time, when she’s in the workplace.”

She said her effort was worth it to “stand up for what is right”.

The tribunal found that the firm’s failure to consider more flexible working put Ms Thompson at a disadvantage, and upheld her claim. The judge awarded her almost £185,000 for loss of earnings, loss of pension contributions, injury to feelings and interest.

“Losing a job unexpectedly is always a cause of unhappiness, shock, and sometimes anger, as shown by the way many employees react to redundancy, even when there has been proper consultation, and even when it is never suggested their performance was not good enough,” the tribunal found.

“Here the claimant resented that flexible working appeared not to be considered properly – as in our finding it was not – and felt that this was an injustice because of her sex, which it was.”