Follows v Nationwide Building Society
A landmark case on indirect disability discrimination.
A Nationwide boss who lost her £75,000-a-year job after the building society got rid of staff working from home has been awarded almost £350,000 in compensation.
In 2021, the Employment Tribunal in the UK ruled in favour of Mrs Follows in her case against Nationwide Building Society for indirect disability discrimination. This case was significant because it established that workers who care for disabled people can claim indirect disability discrimination even if they themselves are not disabled.
Mrs Follows was a senior lending manager at Nationwide, and she had been working from home for several years due to her caring responsibilities for her disabled mother. In 2018, Nationwide decided that all senior lending managers would need to be based in the office full-time. Mrs Follows asked if she could continue to work from home, but her request was denied. She was subsequently made redundant.
Mrs Follows brought a claim to the Employment Tribunal for indirect disability discrimination. She argued that Nationwide’s requirement for all senior lending managers to be based in the office full-time put her at a disadvantage because of her association with her mother’s disability.
The Employment Tribunal agreed with Mrs Follows. The tribunal found that the requirement to be based in the office full-time was a discriminatory provision because it had a disproportionate impact on carers for disabled people. The tribunal also found that Nationwide had failed to justify the requirement on the basis of a legitimate aim.
The decision in Follows v Nationwide Building Society is a landmark case on indirect disability discrimination. It is a reminder to employers that they have a duty to consider the impact of their policies on workers who care for disabled people. Employers should also be prepared to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate the needs of carers.
The case also highlights the importance of flexibility in the workplace. In many cases, working from home can be a reasonable adjustment for carers for disabled people. Employers who are able to offer flexible working arrangements are more likely to attract and retain talented employees.
Implications for employers
The case of Follows v Nationwide Building Society has important implications for employers. Employers should be aware that they can be liable for indirect disability discrimination if their policies have a disproportionate impact on carers for disabled people. Employers should also be prepared to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate the needs of carers.
Employers can take a number of steps to reduce the risk of indirect disability discrimination, including:
- Conducting regular equality impact assessments of their policies and practices.
- Consulting with employees and employee representatives on any proposed changes to policies and practices.
- Considering the needs of carers for disabled people when developing and implementing policies and practices.
- Being flexible and willing to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate the needs of carers.
By taking these steps, employers can create a more inclusive workplace and reduce the risk of discrimination.