Tribunal rejects “right to work flexibly”

A Judge has ruled that there is no absolute obligation on employers to accept new mothers’ requests to work flexibly on their return from maternity leave.

In Whiteman v CPS Interiors Ltd and others, an Employment Tribunal upheld the employer’s decision to reject Ms Whiteman’s request to work from home following her designated maternity leave.

Ms Whiteman, a commercial property designer, had also requested to reduce her hours after having twins, which the employer accepted.

The employer told the Tribunal, that while working at home primarily in the evening might have been possible, it could not accommodate the homeworking request.

The employer said: “[Our] collaborative way of working often involves designers together in a room looking at technical designs; and designs often have to be changed at short notice, something that would be difficult if the employee worked only at home in the evenings.”

Ms Whiteman resigned shortly after, citing the employer’s unreasonable handling of the request.

She brought the claims to an Employment Tribunal for breaches of the flexible working legislation, constructive dismissal, and indirect sex discrimination.

The Judge rejected her claims, saying that there is no right to work flexibly, only a right to request to work flexibly.

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