The reason why? Well it turn out she was one of only 17 female drivers out of 559. She was a single mum struggling to balance childcare with unsociable hours. Then when she made the request it went to a committee to consider. That committee were the majority male in composition. Then consider that of the drivers group two women had made flexible requests (11.76% of the female drivers) whilst only four men had (0.75% of the male drivers). Finally the reason for refusal was that it was 'unfair' to the rest of the driver group.
Both the initial tribunal and the EAT agreed here that the shift patterns put women generally at a disadvantage because more women have caring responsibilities than men and wouldn't easily work those hours. They both said that the decision had been made by a committee looking after the interests of all the drivers at the company, the majority of whom were men (both the committee and the staff), rather than looking at the different requirements. It was felt that the employer was unwilling to agree to anything that disadvantaged its predominantly male workforce, even though alternative shift patterns were available that would meet its business needs while being acceptable to women drivers with childcare responsibilities.
So when considering a flexible working request don't dismiss it as being unfair to the rest of the workforce as you may be discriminating without realising it; where a workforce contains more employees of one sex than another (be that male or female), and then the onus is on you the employer to show your reason for refusal is valid. Case law tells us that 'inconvenience' is sufficient to justify what would otherwise be discriminatory treatment.
So remember a refusal must be justifiable for at least one of these reasons
- it would impose an unreasonable burden of additional costs
- it would have a detrimental effect on the ability to meet clients/ customers' demands
- For having a detrimental impact on the quality of service delivered or on performance
- create unacceptable difficulties to reallocate the work amongst other staff
- create unacceptable difficulties for to recruit additional staff
- create unacceptable difficulties for the Company due to an insufficiency of work during the periods proposed to work
- be inappropriate due to planned structural changes
Maybe we should add
- make sure the decision is made by a balanced committee
- make sure you are balancing the needs of the individuals against the needs of the workforce and the overall business requirements
Need any advise on how to consider a flexible working request then just ask me at firstname.lastname@example.org