Many mothers look forward to returning to work after maternity leave, but are left feeling stressed when trying to fit their working obligations together with the needs of their child. Although parental rights are increasingly being recognised in the working sector, some employers are still reluctant to assist employees in their new situation.
Many women fear that they will be discriminated against, and that having children will hinder their career development. While such discrimination is illegal, it can be difficult to prove. Because many employees fear that they will lose their job, not everyone feels comfortable asking their employer for flexible working hours. Crucially, if you feel that you are being discriminated against or that your employer is unjustified in not granting you flexible working hours, you may want to find out what employment law services are available and what form of grievance you can make.
Legal right to ask for flexible working hours
As a parent who has responsibility for a child under the age of 17, the law provides that you have the right to ask for flexible working arrangements. However, in order to make such a request you must have been with your employer for at least 26 weeks, and cannot have submitted such a request during the past 12 months.
Your employer can take up to 14 weeks to consider your application, and while employers are under no obligation to grant it, they are obliged to consider the application. If your application is denied, your employer must be able to give good business reasons for their decision.
If you have been granted flexible working arrangements they cannot be altered by your employer without your prior consent. If your working arrangements change without proper notification you may be able to make a claim for unfair dismissal; however, before taking judicial action, you should try to talk to your employer in order to see whether you can reach a mutual agreement. Importantly, if your contract of employment includes so-called "flexibility clauses", then your employer has the right to change certain conditions relating to your employment as long as they are not unreasonable.
How do flexible- working arrangements work?
Flexible working hours, if granted, can take different forms. Amongst the most common arrangements are:
- Flexi time
- Working from home
- Working part time
Depending on the arrangement reached, your employment contract may need to change. Additionally, if the arrangement involves you working less then you may need to accept a pay cut.
What happens if my employer does not grant me flexible working hours?
An employer cannot refuse flexible working hours without providing a justification. Such a request can only be denied if there are so-called good business reasons for not allowing it. As a first resort you should always try to talk to your employer before taking further action, but if your efforts are in vain then legal advice is your best chance of successfully resolving the disagreement with your employer.
*This article was put together by experts at Contact Law [www.contactlaw.co.uk/employment].