Three months ago I put in a request in writing for my hours to be changed from 1-10 to 9:30-6:30 and I said in the letter that August was my deadline because my daughter is going to be starting school and when she does go to school I won’t be able to do the hours that I am currently doing because I would be getting hardly any sleep and it would affect my working. I had a meeting because I know they have a position available on that shift that I would need and I have said to them if it suits them better I can move onto the other shift any time. They have said to me today that if I wanted to change my hours they would only do it if I agree to have my contract changed to flexible hours, but that means that if they asked me to do a 6-3 shift for three weeks rather then the shift that I can do that I would not be able to say no and I would not be able to use my daughter as a reason why. So if they don’t change my hours then they are forcing me out of the job and if I do sign to do flexi then it could get to the point that I can’t do a shift and then I would also be out of the job. I don’t know what to do. I have been in this job for two years and I am getting all this hassle just because I will need to change my hours.
Well done for putting your request for flexible working arrangements in writing to your employer and for making it clear that your current hours make it difficult for you to drop off and collect your daughter from school.
The law requires your employer to consider your request carefully, taking into account the benefits to you of the changes you seek and weighing these against the adverse impact, if any, that implementing the changes would have on the business.
While all employees have a right to request flexible working there is no right to insist on working specified hours or a particular shift – even if to do so would help you better manage childcare.
However, where a vacancy exists on a shift which would accommodate your childcare responsibilities a refusal or ‘conditional acceptance’ as in the circumstances you describe, could land your employer in hot water.
This is because a request for flexible working arrangements may only be refused for one of the following ‘business reasons’:
While your employer hasn’t refused your request outright, seizing the opportunity to place you on a flexible hours contract such as would only benefit the business, isn’t the correct approach to take.
As a working mum with childcare responsibilities you shouldn’t be forced into accepting a new contract where this would place you at a disadvantage compared with others who do not have similar caring responsibilities, not least where the new contractual terms are likely to render your child care arrangements even more problematic.
I note too, that it has been three months since you first made the request. The law requires all requests, including any appeals, to be considered and decided upon within three months of receipt of a request, unless you agree to extend this period with your employer.
As it would appear that your employer has failed to deal with your request in a reasonable manner, it would be open to you to pursue a claim in the Employment Tribunal.
Should your employer unjustifiably force you to accept a flexible hours contract in circumstances where your proposal could reasonably have been implemented, you could in addition, pursue claim of indirect sex discrimination in the Employment Tribunal.
Moreover, forcing you to accept a flexible hours contract is likely to undermine the employment relationship such as would entitle you to resign with immediate effect and, as you have two years’ continuous service, pursue an Employment Tribunal claim for constructive unfair dismissal.