Britain's lawyers brace for a wave of discrimination claims

Britain’s lawyers brace for a wave of discrimination claims as staff working from home miss out on promotions

  • Lawyers warn firms face legal disputes from home workers who miss promotions
  • Claims may be brought by those who are more likely to work at home due to age 
  • Analysis found home workers were on average 38% less likely to receive a bonus
  • Big corporates are shifting to home-working, as smaller firms continue office life

Britain is braced for a wave of discrimination claims from employees who miss big promotions after working from home.

Lawyers have warned that companies face legal disputes in coming years if home workers feel their office-based counterparts progress faster in their careers.

Legal experts said staff could bring discrimination claims against employers if they find themselves more likely to be working from home because of their age, gender or if they have a disability.

‘I think this will become a bit of a battleground,’ said Adam Lambert of law firm Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner. 

‘The situation doesn’t necessarily seem discriminatory on the face of it. But you can see how someone could say they’ve not picked things up as well because their disability has led them to work from home.’

Lawyers have warned that companies face legal disputes in coming years if home workers feel their office-based counterparts progress faster in their careers (stock image)

He said employees would file for indirect discrimination in these cases. But an employer could challenge the claim if they can clearly justify promoting office-based staff. 

‘Employers would have a better chance in a tribunal claim if they had set clear promotion criteria,’ he said.

‘If the employer is able to demonstrate one candidate has got better skills than the other, it’s going to be hard for an individual to say that’s wrong. Because if you can’t recruit on the basis of skill, what do you recruit on?’

Sarah George, employment lawyer at DAC Beachcroft, said: ‘There is a big potential to create division between staff groups that are in the office and those who are working remotely. Those staff grumblings could ultimately land as claims for unlawful discrimination.’

Government figures show that between 2012 and 2017 people who mainly worked from home were less than half as likely to be promoted than office-based peers.

A report from the Office for National Statistics said: ‘If an employee changed to mainly working from home, where previously they were mainly based away from home, they saw their chance of being promoted fall by nearly half. 

‘These results are consistent with previous literature which suggests homeworkers may be overlooked when being considered for a promotion due to reduced face-to-face interaction with colleagues and managers. 

‘This may contribute to slower career progression for those who work exclusively from home.’

The analysis also found that people working from home were on average 38 per cent less likely to receive a bonus compared to other workers.

Government figures show that between 2012 and 2017 people who mainly worked from home were less than half as likely to be promoted than office-based peers (stock image)

A Stanford University study found travel agency workers in the office were twice as likely to be promoted even though home workers, selected at random for the study from among their office colleagues, had put in more hours and were more productive.

Private equity boss Jon Moulton said: ‘The most frequent concern I hear about largely home working is the difficulty that new staff find in learning the culture and practical processes of the business.’

Big corporates are leading the shift to home-working, while smaller businesses expect to continue office and workplace life.

All of the 18 large organisations contacted by The Mail on Sunday said they are moving towards a ‘hybrid’ working model.

FTSE 100 giants such as Sainsbury’s, Lloyds, Direct Line, Aviva, Rolls-Royce and others all said office-based staff will be allowed to spend some days working from home each week. 

The vast majority of companies are bringing in the changes from September onwards.

Meanwhile, research by the Federation for Small Businesses found just 19 per cent of small business employers intend to adopt a ‘hybrid’ model.

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