A high-ranking executive at Nationwide who lost her £75,000-per-year job due to the company’s decision to eliminate remote work has been granted compensation totalling nearly £350,000.

The employment tribunal heard that Jayne Follows had been permitted to work from the office two to three times a week to provide care for her elderly disabled mother.

Nationwide decided to phase out “home working” contracts, citing concerns that junior staff were not being adequately supervised without their managers physically present.

When Ms. Follows resisted giving up her arrangement, she was made redundant, leading her to file claims of discrimination and unfair dismissal, asserting that she was targeted for her remote work.

After a protracted five-year legal battle, the tribunal ruled in favour of Ms. Follows, concluding that Nationwide’s decision to eliminate homeworking contracts was grounded in “subjective impressions.” In response to the ruling, a Nationwide spokeswoman stated, “Nationwide prides itself on being an inclusive and supportive employer. However, we accept the decision made by the tribunal.”

A “home working contract”

Ms. Follows joined Nationwide in 2011 and, at the time of her job loss in 2018, held the position of Senior Lending Manager (SLM). Throughout her tenure with the organisation, she consistently received high ratings and appraisals and was regarded as a top performer by her superiors.

Under her “home working contract,” Ms. Follows was only required to attend the office for meetings to accommodate her caregiving responsibilities for her elderly and disabled mother, with visits occurring two to three times a week.

The tribunal learned that in October 2017, Nationwide made the decision to reduce the number of SLMs from 12 to eight, leading to the elimination of home working contracts as part of this process. Tony Alexander, the commercial director, emphasised the necessity for managers to be “accessible and visible” in the workplace, with junior staff expressing concerns about insufficient physical supervision. As a result, Nationwide determined that SLMs must be primarily office-based.

At risk of redundancy

On October 16, 2017, Ms. Follows was informed that her role was at risk of redundancy, and she attended an initial consultation meeting where she was told that “the proposal is to place the roles that are currently home-based at risk.” Her boss expressed the expectation that the team be present in the office daily unless there was a specific business need or benefit to working remotely on a particular day.

In November, Ms. Follows filed a formal complaint, alleging that Nationwide was attempting to change her terms and conditions by requesting her to work in an unsuitable location. When asked to propose an alternative, she replied that her counter-proposal was to maintain her existing home working arrangement, which was not supported by Nationwide due to their perceived need for SLMs to be on-site more regularly.

In January 2018, Ms. Follows was informed of her immediate redundancy. She subsequently sued Nationwide, alleging unfair dismissal, disability, and sex discrimination, contending that the decision to eliminate remote work had been made hastily. Upholding the majority of her claims, the tribunal, led by Employment Judge Mark Emery, concluded that Nationwide’s rationale for eliminating homeworking positions lacked evidential basis and was instead based on subjective judgments among senior management.

The tribunal found that Nationwide did not adequately consider the impact on Ms. Follows or assess the commercial department’s actual need for on-site SLMs. In essence, Nationwide’s decision was not supported by concrete evidence or rational judgment but rested on subjective impressions.

 

 

 

 

Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.