Telewest fined over inflexible working

Employee who wasn't granted flexible working hours to help her care for her baby receives thousand of pounds in compensation

A Telewest employee and mother of three has been awarded compensation of £19,500 after her bosses refused to grant suitable flexible working arrangements to allow her to look after her baby, leading to an impasse which saw her resign her position with the company.

Telewest also offered Deborah Clarke, a call centre worker with seven years under her belt with the cable firm, an apology and agreed to work more closely with the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) in avoiding similar clashes in the future.

Clarke had started a conversation with Telewest prior to returning from maternity leave, requesting the company consider flexible solutions that would enable her to care for her baby and hold down her job. However, according to a spokesman for the EOC, the company refused to bend on its insistence Clarke work unsociable hours, including evening and weekend shifts.

The spokesman added that Telewest did not consider remote working a possible solution, even though its offering of home broadband and telephony means it is better positioned than many to offer remote working.

The EOC spokesman said such an irony is not uncommon and that IT "is one area where we have found the greatest reluctance to consider teleworking".

A spokeswoman for Telewest said: "Telewest accepts the findings of the tribunal and apologises to Deborah Clarke and her family for any distress caused.

"We have a flexible working policy, which has been in place since early 2003, which is being used by a number of our employees. We regret that, in this individual case, we failed to act upon our procedures for flexible working."

The EOC spokesman added: "Home working and remote working are areas we'd really encourage companies to look at. And it's not just about mothers, it's about giving men and women the right work-life balance. A lot of companies these days are finding it difficult to maintain staff and they need to realise avoiding this attrition of their workforce is not just about paying the right wages, it's about providing the right support and working conditions."

According to the EOC, 39 percent of UK firms now offer flexi-time. The EOC's own research also found that 80 percent of employees who have requested greater flexibility to care for their children have been satisfied with the changes introduced.