Employer forced me to end homeworking

I have worked for my employer for nearly three years and have always worked three days at the office and two days from home. I have a clean record with no performance issues in the whole period of employment. I had a new manager start and she said she would honour my homeworking then after two months called me into the office and said I would now have to work in the office an extra two days a week and if I couldn’t I would have to reduce my hours. There was no discussion, no reasoning and she just stated business need – this was all done verbally. After one month I said I couldn’t work an additional two days in the office due to cost and childcare and if there was no other option then I would have to reduce my hours to which she agreed so I was forced into accepting three days a week and taking a big pay drop. Nothing was put in writing despite me asking for it. She emailed the team and told them I was going part time. This was coupled with some unpleasant behaviour from her including bullying and harassment and I resigned shortly after and never started the part-time hours. In my notice period I was signed off with stress and anxiety and I brought a grievance against her. During my leave the CEO emailed me to say he was sorry that I was leaving but it was obviously hard to manage kids/house/job when the job is getting bigger.
The grievance was answered, stating the contract change was informal and I had requested it as I wanted to be a ‘better mother’. They stated I was on ‘informal performance management’ which I had never heard of as I wasn’t hitting targets (I never had any targets) and I should have had a letter of concern. They have now replaced my job with three young girls with no commitments who are working 40-50 hour weeks. I have been to ACAS and early conciliation has broken down as the manager has said she has done nothing wrong and she was trying to help me although I believe I was constructively dismissed due to my childcare commitments. Should I take this to tribunal?

I understand that you have worked for your employer for nearly three years and have always worked three days in the office and two days at home. I understand that a new manager then joined the business and you were informed that you would have to work the extra two days a week in the office otherwise you would have to reduce your hours. I understand that you trialled this arrangement but that after one month you said that you could not work the additional two days in the office due to cost and childcare commitments. You therefore said that you would need to reduce your hours, but you feel that you were forced into doing so. I understand that nothing was put into writing. I also understand that you were subject to some unpleasant behaviour from your manager and that you therefore resigned shortly after these incidents.

I understand that you submitted a grievance and that it was suggested that the change in your contractual hours was simply informal and that you had requested it in the first place. I understand that this is untrue.

I understand that you have been through the ACAS Early Conciliation process because you feel you have been constructively unfairly dismissed.

Where your employer has changed your contractual terms (including, as in your case, your contractual hours) without your consent, you may well have a claim for constructive unfair dismissal in the Employment Tribunal if you resign in response to your employer’s treatment of you. Your employer could claim that you had accepted the change by working under the new hours for a month and you would need to show that you had only done so on a trial basis and/or that you had “worked under protest”. I would strongly suggest that you take further specific legal advice in relation to a constructive unfair dismissal case. Given that you have completed the ACAS Early Conciliation process the time limit clock will be ticking and you must ensure that you submit your claim in time (within 3 months of your resignation) otherwise, a Tribunal will not accept your claim.

From what you have said, you may also have a claim for sex discrimination on the basis that your previously agreed hours, including two days working from home, accommodated your childcare responsibilities. However, without consultation or discussion, your employer has changed your contractual hours meaning that you were forced to resign from your employment because the new working arrangement did not fit in with your childcare responsibilities. Given that it is widely accepted that women bear more of the childcaring responsibilities than men, my view is that you would also have a potential claim for sex discrimination against your previous employer. Again, you would need to submit such a claim within three months of the discriminatory act and you would need to have completed the ACAS Early Conciliation process.

I would strongly recommend that you consider submitting claims in the Employment Tribunal and you should therefore take specific legal advice in relation to the same.

Should you require any further guidance on any of the issues listed above then please contact Tracey Guest of Slater Heelis LLP on 0161 672 1246.

*Helen Frankland assisted in answering this question.

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