The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that carers must not be treated less favourably than other employees whose circumstances are not materially different, for example those with childcare responsibilities.
In the case of Attridge Law v Coleman, the ECJ ruled in favour of Sharon Coleman, a single mother of a five-year-old disabled son. Coleman, who then worked as a legal secretary, claimed that she was not allowed to return to the same job role after she returned from maternity leave, she was not permitted the same level of flexibility as other employees with childcare responsibilities, and that abusive comments were made to her.†
The ECJ ruled that this kind of discrimination is prohibited.
Prior to the ruling, carers had the right to request flexible working but employers could turn it down without being scrutinised by a tribunal. The judgement means that carers could make a discrimination complaint if colleagues are permitted to work flexibly and they are not.
Jane Amphlett, partner at Addleshaw Goddard, said:”The ruling means that employers cannot treat somebody who has a caring responsibility less favourably than anyone else who requests flexible working.”