UK real estate agent wins $254,000 after being refused 5 p.m. finish

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A real estate agent in the U.K. has won nearly £185,000 ($254,478) in compensation from her former employer after the firm refused her request for flexible working hours, which led her to resign. 

A U.K. employment tribunal judge ruled on Monday to uphold Alice Thompson’s claim against Manors real estate agents in London. 

Upon looking to return to work after maternity leave, Thompson had asked if she could finish work an hour earlier at 5 p.m. and work four days a week, instead of five, to accommodate for her daughter’s childcare arrangements. 

Thompson resigned in December 2019 after her boss refused the request, according to an employment tribunal dated August 24. Thompson struggled to find work after the U.K. went into coronavirus lockdown in March 2020, due to its effect on the property market. 

The employment tribunal ordered Manors to pay Thompson £184,961 as “compensation for indirect discrimination because of sex.” 

The tribunal said the sum included interest, past and future loss of income and pension contributions, as well as £13,500 for “injury to feelings,” with an additional amount added to cover any income tax on the payout. 

Thompson told BBC’s “Woman’s Hour” on Tuesday that it had been a “long, exhausting journey.” Thompson said she was pleased to have had some closure on the matter and was happy with the amount of compensation awarded given that the process was “draining” both emotionally and financially. 

Thompson said she didn’t want her daughter to experience the “same treatment in 20, 30 years’ time” when she joins the workplace. 

“I’d put my heart and soul into an estate agency career for more than decade in London, which is no mean feat because it’s quite a male-dominated environment to work in,” Thompson said. “I thought ‘how are mums meant to have careers and families? It’s 2021, it’s not 1971.'” 

Thompson said her request for flexible working wasn’t “seriously considered” and that she would have been happy to hear a counter-offer from her employer. Instead, she said her request was “shut down at every avenue, not listened to, not considered and I was left with no other option but to resign because I couldn’t make it work.” 

A spokesperson for Manors did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment. 

Thompson said that she first engaged with lawyers to work on the case at the end of 2019 and that while she was unsure as to exactly how much the process had cost her in total, it had “definitely run into tens of thousands” of pounds.

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