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.

Strike! Post Office puts wheels in motion for further walkouts

The Post Office is proposing further industrial action after the trustees of its pension fund voted to approve a plan to cut pension benefits.

Around 50 per cent of its workforce will be forced to take a defined contribution scheme in place of their generous final-salary pension scheme, which The Communication Workers Union (CWU) say could cut workers’ retirement income by up to 30 per cent.

The union said the shift would take place in April 2017, despite the Post Office having a surplus of £143 million – making it one of the best-funded schemes in the UK.

Dave Ward, general secretary of the CWU, said: “The Post Office’s decision will cost our members thousands of pounds in their retirement. It’s wholly unjustified and we’re seeing a publicly owned company effectively stealing money from people who have diligently saved for their retirement. The government cannot wash its hands of this.

“It’s more cuts from this irresponsible management team who seem obsessed with managing decline instead of encouraging a thriving Post Office.”

Mr Ward said the CWU will announce its plans for industrial action after a meeting of its executives next week.

Last month, more than 300 Post Offices elected to strike in protest at the planned changes.

Mark Davies, communications and corporate affairs director at Post Office, said: “We are disappointed that our unions are again talking about strikes when we continue to try to reach a constructive way forward through talks at Acas. We can reassure our customers that, if strikes go ahead, the vast majority of people working at Post Office branches would not be involved and almost all of our network will be open for business and operating normally.

“More than 11,000 branches – 97 per cent of the Post Office network – are run by independent businesses and the 50,000 people who work in these branches are not involved in the strike action.”

Employee unfairly dismissed for his age wins more than £6,800 in tribunal

A man struck off for being “too old” has won more than £6,800 in a case against his former employer.

Brian Smith, 75, was told he should “go and find a job at B&Q” by his ex-boss while working at Leytonstone-based newsagents, Bennetts of London.

A tribunal heard how his former boss, Veronica Bennett, made “offensive and personal” remarks and subsequently dismissed him from his job after more than 10 years of service.

Judge Brown ruled that Mrs Bennett had treated the 75-year-old “unfavourably” in comparison with his younger colleagues.

She found that this was “unanimously” proved when Mrs Bennett failed to inform Mr Smith that the newsagents had reopened after its 2015 summer refurbishment, tried to cut his hours in half, and finally made him redundant without notice on 20 March this year.

The Judge also found that Mrs Bennett had breached Mr Smith’s contract by not paying him or offering him any working hours between September 2015 and March 2016.

She said: “Mr Smith was a helpful, dedicated and approachable employee.

“He did not contribute to his dismissal and Mrs Bennett’s claims he did not know where things were in the shop are highly unlikely after 10 years of working there.”

The Judge, ruling that Mrs Bennett’s behaviour towards Mr Smith was “wounding and humiliating”, said it was “hard to imagine a dismissal more unfair.”

The tribunal awarded Mr Smith a total of £6,822.23 to be paid by Mrs Bennett on the grounds of unfair dismissal.

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Charity group calls to end age discrimination in the workplace

In a bid to combat age discrimination in the workplace, a charity group backed by several big-name businesses is calling for a “shift to an ageing workforce”.

Community outreach charity Business in the Community has released a report entitled Age in the Workplace, which calls for a fairer society in employment.

The report, which hopes to highlight the benefits older team members can bring to the business world, has been backed by the likes of Boots, Aviva, Barclays and the Royal Air Force, according to reports.

Rachel Saunders, Director at Business in the Community’s Age in the Workplace campaign, says: “We no longer have a default retirement age but established social norms entrenched over a long period of time must be addressed to ensure that recruitment and progression are fair for men and women of all ages.

“Real change is needed to address age bias and discrimination which are barriers to fulfilling work in later life.

“The shift to an ageing workforce needs to be harnessed by business. Retaining, retraining and recruiting older workers is critical to this,” she added.

The call for action comes after the group’s studies revealed that the number of people aged 65 and above in the UK now makes up approximately one fifth of the entire population – and that the number is expected to double by 2050.

The charity’s report calls for greater inclusion of older applicants during the recruitment process.

It reads: “Between 2012 and 2022, an estimated 12.5 million jobs will be opened up by people leaving the workforce, and an additional 2 million jobs will be created – yet only 7 million younger people will enter the workforce to fill them”.

For further information about this blog or should you need any employment law advice then please speak to Susan Bernstein, Partner in our Employment team on 020 8349 0321 or by email at