Estate agent awarded £180k after boss refused to let her leave work early to pick up daughter

·3-min read
Estate agent Alice Thompson was prevented from working flexible hours by her former employer. (Facebook)
Estate agent Alice Thompson was prevented from working flexible hours by her former employer. (Facebook)

An estate agent has won a payout of more than £180,000 after her boss refuse to let her leave work early to pick up her daughter from nursery.

Alice Thompson, a sales manager at Manors estate agents in London, asked to work for four days a week and finish at 5pm rather than 6pm.

Company director Paul Sellar rejected her request and said the business could not afford for her to be part-time, causing her to resign.

Mrs Thompson took Manors to an employment tribunal claiming sex discrimination.

She was awarded £184,961.32 after a panel found that making her work until 6pm, when nurseries normally close, put her at a “disadvantage”.

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The tribunal heard that Mrs Thompson, from Weybridge, Surrey, started working for Manors, based in Marylebone, in October 2016 earning £120,000 a year.

She was “successful” in her role and was “well thought of”, the tribunal was told.

She told Mr Sellar she was pregnant in spring 2018, and claimed he later told a colleague during a party at a private members’ club: “I thought, for ****’s sake, why is she pregnant when we are doing so well? I was warned about employing a married woman of her age.”

Mr Sellar denied saying this.

Mrs Thompson also claimed that during a staff trip to New York, she felt “excluded” when other workers went drinking on a boat trip while she went shopping and back to the hotel.

She said she was made to feel “like a leaver” after going on maternity leave, saying she was told by Mr Sellar to return her mobile phone and office keys.

The panel heard that he told her she was emotional because she was pregnant when she came into the office to “clear the air”.

While on maternity leave after giving birth in November 2018, Mrs Thompson asked for flexible working hours so she could collect her daughter from nursery as it closed at 6pm.

The panel heard Mr Sellar denied her request, citing “additional costs”, the “detrimental effect on the ability to meet customer demand” and the “inability to reorganise work among existing staff”.

She resigned from the agency in December 2019.

She later sued Scancrown Ltd, the trading company for Manors, for pregnancy and maternity discrimination, harassment, unfair dismissal and indirect sex discrimination.

The tribunal panel, led by employment judge Sarah Jane Goodman, said she had been discriminated against over the denial of flexible working hours.

The panel said: “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.

Alice Thompson resigned from estate agents Manors in London. (Google)
Alice Thompson resigned from estate agents Manors in London. (Google)

“Here, 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.

“Most mothers find they have difficult feelings returning to work after maternity even when it is a return to a familiar job.

“Mrs Thompson's turmoil will have been worse because she had to start from scratch finding a job at all.

“Her lack of success will have led a to a sense of failure. She said… that she was bringing the claim so that her daughter did not have the same experience.”

However, the panel rejected Mrs Thompson’s other claims, saying that Mr Sellar’s alleged remark at the party “was not harassment”.

Mrs Thompson will be awarded £184,961.32 for loss of earnings, pension contributions, injury to feelings and interest.

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