Home | News | House of Commons employee victimised over hot desking policy

House of Commons employee victimised over hot desking policy

May 9th 2022

A House of Commons employee who had a musculoskeletal condition was discriminated against as a result of her office’s hot desking policy.

Jennifer Cafferky Solicitor in our employment team reports on this recent case.

Ms A Baker had worked at the House of Commons since 1991.

She needed to use specialist desk equipment such as an orthopaedic chair, specialist keyboard and mouse, number pad and reading/writing slope.

However, due to the hot desking system, Baker’s equipment was used by her colleagues when she was not around.

The colleagues would often adjust her chair to suit their own frames but not return it to the original setting afterwards.

When the team moved into a different office, Baker’s desk was placed at the end of the room. She requested that it be placed on the other side, so she didn’t have to turn to face people.

However, her line manager simply told her that: “There was nothing I could do about it.”

After she raised a grievance about the new seating arrangement, she was told not to attend a team meeting.

She then attended a later team meeting that she had not been invited to and was told to leave, with her manager refusing to begin until she was gone.

She was later signed off work after injuring her knee. During her absence, the grievance investigation revealed that she had been treated inappropriately, and her managers had misused their positions.

When she returned to work, her desk and work equipment had been drastically altered, which she found difficult to readjust to the settings she needed.

Baker made a request that her desk should not be included in the hot desk policy. However, another manager, Mr Grant, said that it was unrealistic to reserve her space while she was away as office space was at a premium.

Grant said that Baker could request to have someone assist her with the readjustments, but an occupational health report said that she “needs to have her own dedicated workstation that is set up correctly”.

Baker left a note at her desk asking colleagues not to adjust her equipment but when she returned after a day off, she found that the note had been ignored.

She faced a disciplinary hearing for a separate matter and was told that her note was unreasonable. Baker was later told that she faced a formal investigation into her “unprofessional behaviour”.

She brought a claim to the Employment Tribunal, which ruled in her favour.

It held that the employer had failed to make reasonable adjustments to the hot desking policy.

This amounted to disability discrimination. Baker was also victimised when she was subjected to disciplinary procedures and prevented from attending meetings.

If you would like more information about the issues raised in this article, or any aspect of employment law please contact Jennifer on 01228 516666 or click here to send her an email.

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