I am due to return to work in two weeks following maternity leave. I put in a request for flexible working a few months ago, but this was not submitted to HR by my manager as my company is going through a restructure and requests for flexible working have been suspended. I was told if it was formally submitted then it would be rejected and I would have to wait 12 months before submitting another request. My line manager, on the advice of HR, wrote to me outlining this and said in the interim an informal arrangement would be put in place for six months whilst the reorganisation was ongoing. I would be able to do the hours I wanted, but until the reorganisation is completed it wouldn’t be a contractual change. We have now been told by HR that this was the incorrect advice and that I can’t do this – where do I stand? Whilst on maternity leave I haven’t been kept informed of changes due to the reorganisation and was not told that requests for flexible working would be suspended.
Legally you have the right to request flexible working, as long as you have 26 weeks continuous service and you haven’t applied in the last 12 months.
Your manager should have submitted the request to HR, as this would allow both HR and your manager to make a decision on if the application would be rejected or not. If it was rejected you would either be able to appeal the rejection or at the least discuss the reasons why and then submit a grievance if you still were unhappy. Effectively you haven’t been allowed to do this.
Your employer should consider all flexible working requests in a reasonable manner and can only refuse them if there is a business reasons for doing so. One of the business reasons can be a planned structural changes to the business, but this doesn’t mean you can’t apply for the request to be considered. The structural changes may not affect your job or department and flexible working can actually help in areas of restructuring ( potentially job sharing or reducing redundancies if they are involved).
You have the right to be kept informed of changes due to the reorganisation, especially if they directly impact you.
I would formally submit your flexible working application, and ensure this is seen by HR as this will give you a chance to discuss your application if it is rejected. I would also write to HR explaining how unhappy you feel with the treatment you have received while on maternity leave around your flexible working discussion and lack of communication on the restructure.