Home Advantage: Employee wins £31k after work from home arrangement revoked

A Property Agent with endometriosis won an Employment Tribunal case against her employer for unfair dismissal, disability discrimination and failure to make reasonable adjustments after having a successful work from home arrangement revoked in the case of Ms Pauline Pilawa v Spericle Ltd T/A Properties on the Market.


Diagnosed with endometriosis in 2018, Pilawa underwent surgery to remove an ovarian cyst and struggled with severe pain, often leaving her bed bound. Despite her condition, she was able to work effectively from home. When hired in July 2019, Pilawa confirmed to her employer that she could only work between 9am until 3pm as she needed to supervise her younger brother after his return from school. She also explained that she suffered with endometriosis and would need to take days off or work from home when she was in pain, which was initially agreed upon by her employer. The solution worked to both parties’ satisfaction.

No issues were raised with Pilawa’s requests to take time off or work from home when she was experiencing heightened pain until August 2021. Pilawa made nineteen such requests over the course of her employment which were all accommodated. Pilawa was easily able to undertake her duties at home and no complaints were made about the quality of her work at home.

However, in August 2021, amidst a broader push by companies to bring back employees into the office, Pilawa’s situation deteriorated when her manager began questioning her sick days and denied her request to work form home. Despite Pilawa’s protest and clarification of her medical needs, her requests were dismissed. Accordingly, Pilawa contacted her GP on the 27th September 2021 who signed her as not fit to work so that she could claim statutory sick pay.

This led to a series of events where Pilawa was removed from company systems and dismissed without any proper investigation or procedure. Pilawa’s employer did not have a policy in existence, either formal or informal, providing that access would be removed in cases of sick leave or long holidays. Pilawa subsequently lodged a formal grievance, which was met with threats and attempts to intimidate her into withdrawing a Tribunal claim.

The Decision

The Nottingham Employment Tribunal ruled in favour of Pilawa, awarding her £31,707.34 for unfair dismissal, disability discrimination, and failure to make reasonable adjustments. The judge found that Pilawa’s employer had unilaterally revoked a previously successful work from home arrangement without justification, fabricated disciplinary documents and provided unreliable witness testimonies.

The Tribunal emphasised that the company dismissed Pilawa primarily because she requested reasonable adjustments to her work environment due to her disability. Additionally, the Tribunal highlighted the lack of any formal procedure followed by the company in the dismissal process, deeming the company’s response to Pilawa’s condition as inappropriate.

Learning Points for Employers

The case underscores several critical lessons for employers, especially during the current push to bring employees back into the office:

  1. Reasonable adjustments

Employers must accommodate reasonable adjustments for disabled employees, especially when such arrangements have previously worked well.

  1. Balance office policies with individual needs

As many companies push for a return to the office, it is essential to balance these policies with the specific needs of employees who require adjustments to their working arrangements due to health conditions.

  1. Transparent communication

Employers should maintain open and respectful communication with employees regarding their health conditions and work arrangements. Any changes to agreed accommodations should be discussed and justified appropriately.

  1. Procedural fairness

Following proper procedures when addressing performance issues or a potential dismissal is essential. This includes conducting thorough investigations and documenting all steps taken.

This case serves as a stark reminder for employers to approach disability accommodations with care and transparency. As companies navigate the complexities of returning to office environments, they must ensure that policies do not unjustly impact employees with legitimate needs for flexible working arrangements.

How we can help

For further information, or to discuss the issues raised within this case, please contact us to speak to a member of our Employment Team.

Darren Smith
Partner, Employment
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This reflects the law and market position at the date of publication and is written as a general guide. It does not contain definitive legal advice, which should be sought in relation to a specific matter.

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