A manager for Nationwide who lost her job when the building society decided to eliminate staff working from home has been awarded almost £350,000 in compensation.
Jayne Follows had been on a schedule which allowed her to be in the office for up to three times a week and then spend the rest of the time at home so she could care for her disabled mum, an employment tribunal in central London was told.
But ‘homeworking’ contracts were then ended after concerns about problems with junior employees' supervision when managers were not in the office.
Ms Follows was let go from her £75,000-a-year job when she refused to end the WFH arrangement and sued the building society for unfair dismissal, disability and sex discrimination.
She has now won a £345,708 compensation pay-out after the tribunal concluded Nationwide’s decision to stop homeworking was based on “subjective impressions”.
Ms Follows, who was employed as senior lending manager (SLM), has been fighting the legal battle since being made redundant in 2018.
The tribunal heard she had joined Nationwide in 2011 and was regarded as a “top performer” by her bosses.
But a decision in October 2017 to remove four SLMs and eliminate homeworking, due partially to concerns raised by junior staff over a lack of supervision, led to her leaving her role.
Nationwide commercial director Tony Alexander said: “We felt strongly we needed a greater presence in the office,’ he said.
“It’s so much better if they are sitting next to each other.”
After being told her job was at risk on October 16, 2017, she was made redundant in January 2018.
Prior to this, she had refused to stop homeworking and accused her bosses of “attempting to change my terms and conditions” in a formal complaint.
Four steps to challenge an unfair redundancy or problem at work (Yahoo Finance UK)
Ms Follows also sent a counter-proposal upon request, saying: “My counter-proposal is to continue on my existing home working arrangement and this is never going to be supported based on unsupported and non-existent ‘business needs’.
“By setting out the business needs “to have more SLMs available on site more regularly” and my (boss) confirming his negative stance on flexible working you have removed all my options.”
She had argued the decision to let homeworkers go had been made “on a back of a fag packet”.
A Nationwide spokesperson said: “Nationwide prides itself on being an inclusive and supportive employer. However, we accept the decision made by the tribunal.”
The tribunal - chaired by Employment Judge Mark Emery - upheld most of Ms Follows’ claims.
It said: "(Nationwide) was unable to show that its rationale for deleting homeworking posts had any basis in evidence. We concluded that it was based on a view amongst senior management that homeworking posts should be deleted, it would be 'better' to do so, rather than based on any analysis of the business need for on-site SLMs or any consideration of an alternative approach.
"There was no suggestion by (Nationwide) that it considered the balance between the clearly discriminatory effect of the requirement on (Ms Follows) and the commercial department's business needs. We accepted that (Nationwide) made the decision to delete homeworking SLM roles on the basis of some dissatisfaction expressed by some junior staff, and a management view that it would be 'better' to make this change.
"(Ms Follows') evidence and work record at the very least suggested that any issue with supervision did not lie with staff on homeworking contracts. In other words, (Nationwide's) view was not based on actual evidence or rational judgment and was instead based on subjective impressions."
In the UK, unfair dismissal laws are set out in the Employment Rights Act 1996. These laws protect employees from being unfairly dismissed from their jobs. In order to be eligible for protection, employees must have been working for their employer for at least two years.
Unfair dismissal can occur in a number of ways, including dismissal without a valid reason, dismissal due to discrimination, or dismissal without following proper procedures. In the event of unfair dismissal, employees have the right to bring a claim to an employment tribunal.
If the tribunal finds that an employee was unfairly dismissed, they may order the employer to pay compensation or reinstate the employee in their previous position. The amount of compensation awarded will depend on a number of factors, including the length of service and the employee's salary.