With the right to request flexible working being extended to all employees in June, the decision of the Employment Appeal Tribunal in the Solicitors Regulation Authority v Mitchell is a reminder to employers of the importance of being able to provide an adequate explanation for decisions.
When Mrs Mitchell, a costs recovery officer, returned from maternity leave in 2001, she agreed with her employer that she would work from home two days a week for childcare purposes. At this time, the flexible working regulations were not yet in existence. Fast forward seven years, Mrs Mitchell's line manager changed. Her new line manager, Ms Chambis, reviewed and revoked Mrs Mitchell's home working arrangement. Ms Chambis did not review or revoke a similar arrangement that applied to a male colleague of Mrs Mitchell's (Mr Singh).
Mrs Mitchell raised a sex discrimination claim, citing Mr Singh as her comparator. The Employment Tribunal ruled in her favour and the Tribunal's decision was upheld by the EAT.
In her evidence before the Tribunal, Ms Chambis gave six reasons for her decision to review and revoke Mrs Mitchell's home working arrangement. The Tribunal was not satisfied with any of those reasons. The Tribunal was particularly critical of Ms Chambis' reliance on "operational reasons". The Tribunal found that insofar as operational reasons were concerned, the only requirement was that there should be two costs recovery officers present each day. At the time when Ms Chambis reviewed and revoked Mrs Mitchell's home working arrangements, there were five costs recovery officers.