Manager was discriminated against while her son was in hospital

A manager was unfairly dismissed after she was told she couldn’t work remotely at her son’s hospital bedside.

The case involved Lorraine Hodgson, who was office manager of Martin Design Associates.

Hodgson’s son was in hospital with cancer, and she requested to be allowed to work remotely so she could spend time at the hospital with him.

A company laptop and phone were available, and Hodgson would have been able to carry out much of her duties away from the office.

However, managing director Chris Martin refused the request and said he knew what was best for Hodgson.

Martin said that Hodgson shouldn’t work in such a stressful situation and likened her to a rugby player who wanted to carry on playing despite suffering a head injury.

Martin said that he ‘couldn’t ask her’ to carry on working at the hospital, even though Hodgson had requested to do so as it would give her something positive to focus on as well as the fact that she needed to keep working to pay her mortgage.

He said that he didn’t have an open cheque book and that it would be better for her to take holiday pay for the first two weeks of her absence and then take unpaid leave.

The company anticipated that Hodgson would be absent and had already brought in another employee to cover her workload.

Hodgson took legal action against the company and claimed that Martin would often let male employees work remotely on both a short term and long-term basis.

Martin also never claimed to know what was better for the male colleagues as he had had done with Hodgson.

Hodgson’s mental health was under strain due to her son’s illness and was made worse by Martin’s decision to not allow her to work remotely.

Judge Wade said: “Mr Martin treated the claimant less favourably because of, that is materially influenced by, her sex, than he treated, or would have treated her male colleagues when he refused to permit remote working.

“He had no intention to discuss the detail of the statutory request at all, and the claimant’s thoughtful and lengthy analysis of her role. This was an entirely unreasonable approach.”

Hodgson was awarded £60,000 compensation for unfair dismissal, sex discrimination and injury to feelings.

Please contact us for more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of employment law.

to chat