international employment law firm alliance L&E Global

Ireland: Employee Denied Work Flexibility Awarded 15 Months’ Pay for Discrimination Based on Family Status

The Complainant’s employment was terminated by reason of her not passing her probationary period. As a single mother, she argued that she experienced challenges in meeting set targets within shift times and, therefore, requested flexitime. The Complainant contended that the Respondent’s inflexibility around her working time and breaks constituted discrimination based on family status.

The failure to consider her request for flexible working hours led to missed targets and a subsequent probationary review. The Adjudication Officer in the WRC noted the review resembled a disciplinary process, addressing alleged poor performance and deviations from standard break times.

The review was conducted nearly three months after the Complainant’s six-month probationary period’s expiration, and the Complainant’s employment was terminated the next working day.

The Adjudication Officer found that the Respondent’s strict start and finish times (in circumstances where the Complainant was working remotely and willing to work outside of set hours to achieve her targets) amounted to indirect discrimination based on family status, and she was awarded three months’ salary.

The WRC also found that direct discrimination had taken place in relation to the probationary review’s timing, a breach of the Complainant’s contractual notice period, and procedural fairness.  The WRC held that those failures were not breaches that the Respondent could argue were universally applied to all employees, and that the Respondent had acted in breach of the Claimant’s contractual probationary period notice and fair procedures. On that basis, the WRC found that the Complainant had made out a prima facie case of direct discrimination by being treated less favourably than an employee without this family status.

The WRC highlighted that the Respondent was on notice of the Complainant’s family status as she requested flexibility based on her family status and was satisfied based on the evidence presented that the Complainant was reviewed outside of her probationary period (which was more akin to a disciplinary review) and was not afforded fair procedures in the subsequent decision to terminate her within one working day. The totality of these facts gave rise to an inference of direct discrimination on the ground of family status, which was not rebutted.

The Complainant was awarded €33,450 in total compensation (equal to 14 months’ remuneration).