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I am currently in my 7th month of maternity leave. Prior to this I was working full time. I submitted my flexible working request in writing in January – requesting to work 2 days a week. My manager asked to meet with me a week later – he did not inform me of my right to be accompanied at the meeting. At the meeting he basically just read my letter and said he’d be in touch. He wrote back exactly one calendar month later to say that he would like to meet me again to discuss my request further and the possibility of a job share. I telephoned him to arrange a date/time and he mentioned that I might like to bring along a friend. At the second meeting I was accompanied by a colleague. It was pretty obvious that my request was going to be rejected and today I received a letter confirming this (this letter was written within a week of the meeting so no issues there). My manager has used 4 of the 8 reasons he could have to decline my request, primarily citing increased costs if a job share was in place. He has quoted £5k – this is equivalent to 1 extra day a week (as in me working 2 days and the job share working 4 days over a 5 day week – therefore both of us working 1 full day together). The letter says I now have 14 days to appeal. A colleague returned from maternity leave in 2012 and was allowed to job share with only a half day handover. A member of my own team returned from maternity leave in late 2011 and a role was created specifically for her to accommodate her flexible working request. My parents in law have now kindly offered to care for our two children an extra day a week so I can in fact return to work 3 days week. I would like to appeal – have the examples given above set a precedent? Should I try to renegotiate and offer to work 3 days and suggest that a half day handover is adequate? Any advice will be much appreciated!
An employee has the right to request flexible working arrangements from their employer but not the right to automatically be given a flexible position. The employer has to show that they have given serious consideration to the request and if declining a request, give reasons as to why the request is being turned down. There is a statutory time line that has to be followed by employer and employee when a request for flexible working is made.
In relation to your question, your employer appears to have followed the timelines, albeit the first meeting seems to have been slightly out of sync since you were asked to attend a meeting without being told that you were allowed a companion. However, as it sounds like little was discussed at this meeting and there was a proper meeting later where you were given choice to take a companion, your employer is just about following the guidelines. A solicitor would be able to advise whether you would have a case based on the first meeting not being correctly adhered to or not. The rest of the timings have been followed by your employer including your right to appeal within 14 days.
Without seeing the list of reasons that your employer gave you for declining the request, it is impossible to say whether these are justified. However, I would say that the fact that other people have been given flexible working in recent years would strengthen your argument – assuming that these arrangements are working out for the employer?
I do believe that you should appeal it and your reasons for appeal should be around the fact that others have been granted flexible working before. Prepare as much information as you can as to how the job could work as a job share and “sell“ it in. By all means have up your sleeve the suggestion that you go back three days since then it makes it harder for them to decline it especially if others do that work arrangement already with a half day handover. Perhaps raise that if during the appeal meeting it is clear that they are going to decline your request despite your precedent arguments.
If the appeal decision still goes against you and your request is declined and you want to pursue this further, you will have to seek further legal advice either starting with ACAS who have a free, independent legal help line or contact a Solicitor.
Whilst every care has been taken in compiling this answer, WorkingMums cannot be held responsible for any errors or omissions. This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific legal advice.