Mum wins £180,000 after boss refused to let her finish early to pick up daughter

An estate agent has been awarded more than £180,000 after her boss rejected her request to leave early from work to pick up her daughter from nursery.

Alice Thompson, who worked as a sales manager for London-based agency Manors, asked her boss to go part-time and work four days a week, as well as finish an hour earlier at 5pm.

Company director, Paul Sellar, turned down her request claiming that the business could not afford to let her go part-time.

Mrs Thompson decided to resign and took Manors to an employment tribunal claiming sex discrimination in a bid to ensure her daughter does not have the “same experience” when she is older, the Mirror reports.

The panel ruled in her favour and awarded her £184,961.32 after it found that working until 6pm – the time that nurseries close – placed her at a “disadvantage”.

The hearing was told Mrs Thompson began working for Manors in October 2016, initially earning £120,000 a year.

The sales manager, from Weybridge was "successful" in building sales income and was "well thought of", the hearing was told.

However, her relationship with Mr Sellar began to deteriorate when she told him she was pregnant in spring 2018, despite the boss organising a party to celebrate the news.

Mrs Thompson claimed Mr Sellar told a colleague during the party: "I thought, for f***'s sake, why is she pregnant when we are doing so well? I was warned about employing a married woman of her age."

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However, Mr Sellar denied making the comment as well as a later conversation where Mrs Thompson confronted him.

In October 2018, Mrs Thompson confirmed the details of her maternity pay and attached an Excel sheet with 11 deals she expected commission on.

Mr Sellar, however, decided she would only receive commission on deals registered in the sales spreadsheet up to her last day and those completed after she returned to work.

The tribunal was told her contract meant she had to work from 9am until 6pm.

It also provided for statutory sick pay but had no details on maternity leave.

In the past, two female administrative staff members had gone on maternity leave and had returned to part-time hours, the panel was told.

While on maternity leave after giving birth in November 2018, Mrs Thompson explored a flexible working arrangement of a four-day week and shorter hours so she could collect her daughter from nursery as it closed at 6pm.

Mr Sellar denied this for multiple reasons including "additional costs", the "detrimental effect on the ability to meet customer demand" and the "inability to reorganise work among existing staff".

She later launched a grievance which included the denial of her request to work flexibly, before quitting in December 2019.

The panel heard Mrs Thompson was "devastated" at losing the relations she had formed with clients and also her building up of the team.

Mrs Thompson then sued Scancrown Ltd – the company Manors trades as – for pregnancy and maternity discrimination, harassment, unfair dismissal and indirect sex discrimination.

The panel agreed that she had been discriminated against by Mr Sellars' denying her flexible working request.

It said: "Mrs Thompson 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.

"The nursery closing at 6pm aligns with standard office hours, and a requirement to work until 6pm each day did place her at a disadvantage, as she would not be able to get there in time.

"As for four-day working, we do not know if that was wanted because of the long commute (up to two hours per day) or the cost of nursery care, but all told we accept that the requirement did put her at a disadvantage."

However, the tribunal rejected her other claims of Mr Sellars' alleged remark, as “it was said as an unguarded remark after an evening of eating and drinking”.

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