Nationwide has been forced to pay almost £350,000 to a manager who claimed being made to work in an office was discrimination.
Jayne Follows, who was a senior lending manager [SLM] on £75,000 at the building society, lost her job when eight home working contracts were cut in 2018.
Bosses had allowed Ms Follows, regarded as a “top performer”, to only come into the office two to three times a week so she could care for her elderly disabled mother, an employment tribunal heard.
But the company decided it wanted to eliminate “home working” contracts because it did not believe junior staff were being supervised properly as their managers were not physically present.
She sued Nationwide for unfair dismissal, disability and sex discrimination arguing that the decision to eliminate homeworkers had been made “on a back of a fag packet”.
Now, after a five-year legal battle, she has been awarded £345,708 on Sept 26 by an employment tribunal in central London.
Formal complaint sent
In October 2017 Nationwide decided to reduce the number of SLMs from 12 to eight and as part of this process, the decision was made to eliminate home working contracts including Ms Follows’, the tribunal heard.
The following month Ms Follows sent a formal complaint to Mr Alexander stating that Nationwide was “attempting to change my terms and conditions by asking me to work in an unsuitable location”, after being told in October that year that her role was at risk of redundancy.
In January 2018 Ms Follows, who had joined Nationwide in 2011 and received high ratings and appraisals throughout her career there, was told she would be made redundant with immediate effect. She subsequently sued the company.
Justifying the decision to cut the roles, Tony Alexander, the commercial director, told the hearing that it was “essential” that managers in the business be “accessible and visible” and that junior staff had raised concerns about a lack of physical supervision.
“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,” adding that “informal day to day supervision” was “lacking”.
Nationwide’s view ‘not based on actual evidence’
Upholding the majority of her claims, the tribunal – chaired by employment Judge Mark Emery – said: “We concluded that it was based on a view amongst senior management that home working 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.
“In other words, (Nationwide’s) view was not based on actual evidence or rational judgment and was instead based on subjective impressions.”