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Office Manager refused permission to work remotely wins 60K

Makbool Javaid, Partner - Simons Muirhead & Burton

In the case of Hodgson v Martin Design Associates Lorraine Hodgson had been working for Mr Martin, the Managing Director, since 2007 in his mechanical and building services design business.

Hodgson and Martin knew each other well and lived in the same village. Her son had also worked for the business for a year at some point.

By 2018 Hodgson was Office and Marketing Manager. She signed a new contract in 2017 providing for thirty hours per week spread across Monday to Friday.

The claimant did not work from home. However, much of her work could be done remotely although there were some tasks which required presence in the office, such as attending the weekly project meeting and acting as Mr Martin’s PA.

In 2018 Hodgson requested to work from home which was denied. Her reason was her adult son’s mental health which was in crisis at that time. Shortly after, Hodgson’s son, then 21 years old, was admitted to hospital and diagnosed with an aggressive leukaemia.

The tribunal heard that Martin said Hodgson should take holiday for the first two weeks of her absence and then go on unpaid leave, and that her job would be there for her when her son was well again. She eventually resigned.

The Employment Tribunal found that Hodgson was directly discriminated against on the grounds of sex and was constructively unfairly dismissed after her boss denied her remote working request in part because of “his belief that he knew best for the claimant”.

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