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Mom who was denied reduced hours to pick up daughter from daycare wins over $250k in settlement

"How are mums meant to have careers and families? It's 2021 not 1971," the new mom asked.

Mom who was denied reduced hours to pick up daughter from daycare wins over $250k in settlement
Representative Cover Image Source: Getty Images/Maskot

A working mom won over $250k in a sex discrimination payout after her employer denied her request for reduced hours in order to pick up her daughter from daycare. According to BBC, Alice Thompson was awarded £185,000 (roughly $255,947) by an employment tribunal this week at the end of what she said was "a long, exhausting journey." A judge ruled that Thompson—who was a successful sales manager at real estate agency Manors in central London—had suffered indirect sex discrimination when the firm refused to consider her request. "I'd put my heart and soul into an estate agency career for more than a decade," she said. "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 Thompson was due to return to work from maternity leave in 2019, she realized that the only nursery she could get her daughter into was an hour away and would close at 6 p.m. "I had to chase my director, Paul, to schedule a meeting to discuss the situation. In the meeting, I requested flexibility – asking to work part-time, four days a week, finishing at 5pm instead. I knew I would probably have to take a salary cut but we didn’t even get to that stage of negotiations," she wrote in an article published by Metro.



"I genuinely thought it would be a normal request to change hours, but it became clear that Paul was very closed off to the idea," Thompson revealed. "It just wouldn't work for the business. There was no counter offer, no alternative. There was nothing I could do; I couldn't return to work without this change as there would be no one to care for my daughter. It was a complete stalemate situation."



"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," she told BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour. "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."



Thomspon said she decided to pursue legal action 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, adding that it was worth the time, energy, and money she poured into it to "stand up for what is right." The employment tribunal found that the real estate firm's failure to consider more flexible working put Thompson at a disadvantage. The judge awarded her almost $255k for loss of earnings, loss of pension contributions, injury to feelings and interest. However, the court denied her other claims of direct discrimination and harassment during pregnancy and maternity leave and unfair dismissal.



The tribunal also sympathized with Thompson in the findings, with the judges writing: "Many new mothers find returning to work difficult, and we considered whether to discount any award for the risk that she would have abandoned the job on return because of separation difficulty, or discouragement commuting over an hour each way by public transport. The claimant seemed to us determined, and has used a nursery while attempting to make her way as self-employed, so we have not made a discount, expecting that she would have worked on the reduced hours because of the difficulty finding other work and because she knew the team and the local market well."



"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."

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