Creeping working hours: Ask the expert
Although you have agreed a new role on reduced hours due to the reorganisation, clearly this has not been tried and tested. I note that the role carries with it the standard stipulation that you may have to work additional hours as necessary.
However, this is really a statement which is more applicable to those working full time hours since you will, as you say, have less flexibility in the first place. I suggest that you try and have a friendly conversation with your new manager and indicate that although you appreciate that there is a clause stating that you might have to work longer on occasion, you are agreeing to the reduced hours role so that you can have a better work/life balance having had a baby. You therefore are concerned that you will not have a huge amount of flexibility in that regard and do not want to start off on the wrong foot.
Hopefully the manager will tell you not to worry and that on the whole the expectation is simply 30 hours and a little more on occasion in very busy periods. You should say that you are a little concerned that it may lead to more hours being needed for the role and ask your manager whether you and your manager could have regular monthly meetings at the beginning of taking on the role so that you can report back on how the role is going and whether or not you have a frequent requirement to work longer hours. I find that the more communication that takes place at an early stage, the better the working relationship is likely to be.
If you do continue to have concerns, then although there is no set amount over the 30 hours that would legally mean that it is unreasonable, if you are regularly being asked to work in excess of 35 hours a week rather than 30 then I would raise this first informally and, if you are not being heard properly, as a grievance. If you continue to be treated unfairly then this could go to the relationship of trust and confidence between you and the employer entitling you to resign and claim constructive dismissal, but hopefully it will not come to this and that the monitoring and regular meetings will be enough to keep matters under control.
Laura Livingstone is an employment lawyer for Davenport Lyons in London.
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