Q And A
Office move impacts flexible working: Ask the expert
I am due to complete maternity leave on 23 July and then return to work on 17th August following annual leave. My employer has informed my department and is due to formally inform me that my role is being displaced to London which is two hours away via rail. All staff are being told they will have a job but it will be in London and the company will help them find other jobs in the company if possible. The timetable for this has already started and this will all be sorted out by 1st September. I have been advised I am also within these deadlines yet I do not return until 17th August and therefore feel at a considerable disadvantage. They also want me to arrange my flexible working hours to take into account I could be working in London whereas I currently live five minutes from work and wish to do compressed hours which may not be possible if I work in London. Surely I can readdress my working hours if and when my place of work changes to this displacement otherwise I could risk redundancy at a significantly reduced salary.
Answer by Tracey Guest
It is not clear from your query whether a redundancy process has been started. I will assume that this is the case. From the facts given it seems that your company should have warned you that your role is at risk of redundancy due to the change in location. It also appears that you have been offered a new role to try to avoid any redundancy.
Any alternative role offered to you has to be suitable. If the new role involves a much greater travelling distance then this could be a reason for saying the role is not suitable and you can request to be made redundant instead.
While on maternity leave, you have the right to be offered suitable alternative employment over and above your colleagues. If therefore there is a suitable job which you are aware of, you should ask your employer to offer you that job and remind them of their obligations in this regard due to you being on maternity leave. You have also asked about changing your hours of work. It appears that you are asking what would happen if you reduce your hours of work on return from maternity leave and then subsequently wish to revert to your full time hours if you are to be made redundant i.e. to ensure you receive the higher redundancy pay.
If you agree to reduce your hours, then those are the hours on which any redundancy payments will be based unless you obtain an agreement to the contrary with your employer. In other words you would need a written agreement from your employer that although your hours are being reduced, if they decide to go ahead with making you redundant in any event, that any redundancy pay will be based on your full time hours. They are not obligated to agree to this and it would be a matter of negotiation.
Please call me on 0161 975 3823 in order that I can advise you further as to whether you would have a claim for unfair dismissal/sex discrimination.
Tracey Guest is head of employment and a partner at Slater Heelis in Manchester.