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Cleaner manager awarded £15K in unfair dismissal claim after refusal of request for reduced hours following adoption leave

In the case of Mrs D P v Clean and Tidy Domestic and Commercial Cleaning Ltd the Claimant worked for the Respondent from March 2008 until her resignation on 31 May 2023. At that time the company provided its services primarily at racecourses and four or five holiday lets on sites across Yorkshire.

In the case of Mrs D P v Clean and Tidy Domestic and Commercial Cleaning Ltd the Claimant worked for the Respondent from March 2008 until her resignation on 31 May 2023. At that time the company provided its services primarily at racecourses and four or five holiday lets on sites across Yorkshire.

Initially hired as a cleaner, she was later promoted to supervisor in 2011, with additional responsibilities including training new recruits alongside her cleaning duties.

In 2013, the Claimant’s health began to decline, leading to diagnoses of carpal tunnel syndrome in her right wrist and Kienböck’s disease in her left wrist. After undergoing surgery in 2014, her orthopaedic specialist advised her to reduce her workload. As a result, Mrs. T, the general manager and owner of the company, reassigned her to manage holiday lets and train cleaning operatives.

By 2015, the Claimant’s role predominantly involved managing holiday lets and overseeing cleaning operations at racecourses. In anticipation of her adoption leave, the company hired Mr. W in March 2021. The Claimant adopted two sons in 2022 and commenced her adoption leave on June 1. She and Mr. W developed a positive working relationship during their year of collaboration.

In November, Mrs. T sold the company to Lightowler, prompting Mr. W to assume the role of general manager. Miss W took over as the human resources manager but lacked experience in handling employees returning from family leave or managing flexible working requests.

On February 22, 2023, the Claimant emailed Mr. W to discuss her return to work and working hours following the end of her adoption leave. Mr. W welcomed her desire to return to work, acknowledging her valuable experience and assistance in his role.

Despite the Claimant’s request to return to work on a part-time basis starting May 1, her request was initially declined by Miss W on April 27. Miss W later claimed that the decision was still under review, but the Claimant’s subsequent email requesting reasons for the denial contradicted this assertion.

Upon receiving legal representation, the Claimant’s solicitor highlighted the mishandling of her flexible working request and sought a financial settlement for her termination. Miss W’s response on May 9 suggested that no decision had been made, though the tribunal found this to be a reaction to the solicitor’s letter rather than a genuine reconsideration of the request.

A formal meeting between Miss W and the Claimant on May 17 confirmed Miss W’s decision to refuse the Claimant’s request for a two-day workweek. This decision was based on the company’s perceived lack of necessity for a part-time employee and financial concerns regarding additional staffing.

The Claimant resigned on May 31, citing the company’s failure to fulfil its obligations regarding her flexible working request as the reason for her departure.

Employment Judge Cox concluded that Miss W’s mishandling of the Claimant’s request led to her unfair constructive dismissal. The tribunal attributed this to Miss W’s inexperience in handling flexible working requests and her attempt to conceal her premature decision-making process.

As a result, the Claimant was awarded £15,048.18 in compensation for unfair dismissal by the tribunal.

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