In the recent case of Follows v Nationwide Building Society, an employment tribunal found that an employee had been subjected to indirect discrimination when her request to continue working from home was denied. Ms Follows did not have a disability herself but was the carer for her disabled mother and was employed on a homeworker contract.
A decision by Nationwide that all staff in Ms Follows role must work from the office caused Ms Follows a particular disadvantage, because of her association with her disabled mother, a disadvantage which, the tribunal said, Nationwide could not justify on the facts of this case. Ms Follow’s claims of unfair dismissal (following her selection for redundancy due to her inability to work from the office full-time), indirect associative discrimination, and indirect sex discrimination were all upheld.
Whilst this finding is not technically binding on future tribunals, it is significant as the wording of the Equality Act 2010 requires the individual themselves to have the protected characteristic (in this case a disability) for the purpose of indirect discrimination. The ET concluded that the Equality Act had to be interpreted in line with EU law, which extends the protection further.
It is imperative that frontline managers who are involved in redundancy consultations or dealing with requests for flexible working receive full training on how to recognise potential discrimination to protect the business from this type of claim.
At Langleys, we offer in-house training and workshops run by qualified solicitors, to equip managers with the knowledge and skills to spot potential discrimination. If your managers might benefit from training, give us a call.