Request to reduce hours is being ignored: ask the expert
There is a statutory procedure laid down in relation to employee requests for flexible working. In summary, on receiving a request for flexible working from an employee (which must be in writing), the employer must adhere to the following timelines:
- Arrange a meeting with the employee within 28 days of receiving the application to discuss the request. The employee can be acccompanied by a work colleague if they so wish.
- Notify the employee of their decision within 14 days of the date of the meeting.
- This notification will either accept the request and establish a start date, or confirm a compromise agreed at the meeting, or reject the request and set out clear business reasons for the rejection together with notification of the appeals process.
- There is a right to appeal and the employer must arrange to hear the employee's appeal within 14 days of being informed of the employee's decision to appeal. The employee must be allowed to be accompanied by a work colleague if they so wish.
- Notify the employee of the decision on the appeal within 14 days after the date of the meeting.
Employers can decline applications based on several criteria, one of which is the detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand i.e. in your case they would need to objectively justify why they think the job requires previously worked hours if they weren’t prepared to accept your request. So depending on exactly how long it is since you made your request in writing, your employer may not have followed the statutory process (this is the case if it is five weeks since your written request by email was received). It is just possible that your supervisor is not aware of the statutory guidelines (or a company policy on the subject) so I suggest you write a letter and send it by post and as an email attachment outlining your understanding of the statutory guidelines and reminding them that a meeting is required to discuss your request following your written request being submitted on X date.
If following this there was no response, you could lodge a grievance using your company’s grievance procedure since then they are obliged to hold a meeting with you to discuss the grievance, but before doing this I suggest as above that you contact them again informally but clearly stating the dates of your initial request and demonstrating that you were following the statutory procedure and encouraging them to do the same in a constructive way.
Employees are also entitled to ‘Keep in Touch’ (known as KIT days) under current maternity leave statutory guidelines, so it is also of concern that they’ve not made you aware of this entitlement which is designed to keep both parties in touch for the duration. If you have no joy with the above informal approach and do decide to lodge a grievance, it would be worth raising this matter too.
While every care has been taken in compiling this answer, WorkingMums cannot be held responsible for any errors or ommissions. This information is not intended to be a substitue for specific legal advice.
Jane Barclay is group HR manager for Ede and Ravenscroft, having set up her own HR consultancy, Barclay Boland HR.