Q&A - Is boss discriminating against me in demanding post COVID furlough work return?

Q:    When the coronavirus pandemic hit us, along with other work colleagues I was furloughed. As my disabled son is in residential care and I was told I would not be able to visit him because of lockdown, I decided to have him home and care for him myself. Now my boss wants me to return to work in the office, despite two male colleagues being allowed to return and work from home. I would prefer to work from home as it will take time to get my son back into residential care and even when that happens, I may still not be allowed to visit him. If male colleagues can work from home doing the same job as me, surely this is discrimination?

A:    It may be that your employer feels you would not be able to do your job properly and care for your son at the same time. However, if he is allowing others doing the same job as you to work from home, and his decision to demand your return to the office is based solely on the fact that you are caring for someone with a disability, then that could be classed as ‘disability discrimination by association’.

In addition to that, if your colleagues who are being allowed to work from home are all male, then you could argue that the boss’s decision is having a disproportionate impact on women who work in the business, which means you may also have a case for ‘indirect sex discrimination’.

In the current exceptional circumstances, no situation like yours is going to be straightforward to resolve. We have lawyers working in both Mental Health and Employment who are seeing more and more cases that they would normally only encounter on rare occasions. You should seek legal advice as soon as possible to find out exactly where you stand.

This question has been answered by Robert Williams, a Solicitor with GHP Legal.  If you would like to speak to someone about this or any other legal matter it is still possible and we are doing everything we can to ensure that we continue to offer our high levels of service to our clients.  In accordance with government guidelines, some of our lawyers are currently working remotely which means you may not now receive a response as promptly as you may expect. Please kindly bear with us and we will respond as soon as we are able.

Where possible, we ask that you communicate with us by phone or email. If you have a new enquiry, please use the ‘Contact us’ form on the website or call Wrexham 01978 291456 or Oswestry 01691 659194. As a firm, you will appreciate that we are still extremely busy, and due to current circumstances work may be interrupted – however cases are still ongoing and will be prioritised by urgency and need. Stay safe and thank you for your support.

Robert Williams

Robert Williams

Partner and Complaints Handler

Partner and Head of the Civil Litigation, Personal Injury and Dispute Resolution team in Wrexham

James Denton

James Denton


Solicitor in our Civil Litigation team in the Oswestry and Wrexham offices.