Can a job share be forced on me?: ask the expert

I am due to return to work later this month after taking the full 52 weeks maternity leave. Until last week I was given the impression my request (verbal) to work part time would be granted. I have a lot of annual leave to use so was going to use it to extend my time off work. Last week, however, I as told by my line manager my job was going to be a 50/50 job share and because they didn’t have anyone else in place to job share yet I was responsible for the full-time job. Apart from shock, I feel let down. My boss has always encouraged me to take as much time off as I could afford and to only come back to work a day or two because as she puts it ‘you never get that time back with your children’. I have since read the job share policy which states discussions should have taken place before I started my maternity leave. This one is tricky because due to family circumstances just before I was due to go off I left quite suddenly, although I did go back to tie up loose ends. My question really is can a job share be forced on me? A part-time position, which I thought I was going to have, suits me and my family better and would have given me more time off with my family.

There are two ways that an employee can make an application for flexible working. You can either follow a formal procedure as set out under statute or you can make an informal request. You made an informal request verbally to work part time and had been given the impression that this would be granted. Given that your boss has now made it clear that your request has not been granted, my advice is that you should lodge a formal application for flexible working as soon as possible. This should comply with the statutory flexible working procedure. Your request must be made in writing and dated and must: –

– -State that the application is being made under the statutory right to request flexible working.

– Detail the changes requested and the date it is proposed that such changes should become effective. (You need to set out exactly how many days/hours you wish to work and be as specific as possible in this respect.)

– Explain what effects you consider such change will have on your employer and how these may be dealt with.

– Confirm the relationship between you and the child.

As part of your flexible working request, my advice is for you to also set out the background to this matter, i.e. that you had requested to return part time verbally and that you had understood that your request would be granted, given that your boss had encouraged you to take as much time off as you could afford etc. Also, when making your application, you need to check whether the NHS has any flexible working application policy, as this may contain other rules for you to follow when making your application.

There are set statutory grounds upon which your employer can refuse your application. A refusal notice must set out which ground(s) apply and provide a sufficient explanation as to why these apply. The statutory grounds are: –

1. The burden of additional costs

2. Detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand

3. Inability to re-organise work among existing staff

4. Inability to recruit additional staff

5. Detrimental impact on quality

6. Detrimental impact on performance

7. Insufficiency of work during the periods the employee proposes to work

8. Planned structural changes

After lodging a formal request to work flexibly, your employer must arrange a meeting with you within 28 days to discuss the same. There are then set timescales in which your employer must provide a decision. If your request is refused on one of the business grounds stated above, you will have the right to appeal. Under the statutory procedure, you must appeal within 14 days. You should also check your employer’s policy for any time limits that apply.

If your formal request is refused, a job share cannot be forced on you. It is up to you whether you decide to accept the offer of a job share (if this is offered after your formal application) or return to your original full time position. Equally, you have no automatic right to part time work. You only have the right to request part time work, but your employer should only refuse this request if it has proper business grounds to do so. If you do not believe that your employer has fair grounds to refuse your application for part time work, then you could have potential claims for constructive unfair dismissal, breach of the statutory flexible working procedure and/or sex discrimination.





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