Can we be forced to travel abroad to meetings?

I work in a job share for a large company in the UK which has offices across Europe. Both of us in the job share have been asked to travel for team meetings abroad. Our contract states our our place of work is at our UK office, but it may be necessary to travel to other locations to fulfill our duties. I am the primary carer for my children and my husband is unable to do school pick-ups and drop-offs. He could only do it if he took holidays. There is no-one else we can ask. Also I am still breastfeeding at night so overnight stays are not an option and I suffer from anxiety around travel and leaving my family due to a traumatic incident in the recent past.  The meetings are not part of our day to day job – they are mainly team building and we could do them remotely. The colleague faces the same childcare issues. I have worked in the company for 10 years. Can they make us travel? Can we be dismissed for it?

 

You could look at how many times you had to travel before you had your children and how much you travel now. As you have worked for the company for 10 years I am assuming that you worked full time before you had your children. Have they recently asked you to start going to these meetings more often or is there a change in your team/manager? I’m guessing the case is that some change has come about and this is why they are pressing for you to attend these meetings more. If you have been allowed to take on a job share since maternity leave, the business is seen to be family/flexible friendly. It will be worth looking back over your job share agreement if you have anything in writing to see if travel was written in there.

As this is part of your original contract and if there isn’t anything about the travel with your flexible working change then, yes, legally they are able to ask you to make these trips, although it doesn’t say how often this will be needed. You could argue that as you are working in a reduced hour capacity and around your childcare that they will need to take this into account.

I would initially sit down with your manager (with your job share – if you feel comfortable or separately if you don’t)  and have an informal meeting to discuss the issues you have mentioned. They may not be fully aware of your circumstances, ie with the breastfeeding and anxiety of travel abroad. You can also go through alternative options ie using the other methods of contact than physically being there. You could even offer to go for a day meeting say once a quarter if you felt this would help. If this doesn’t work then I would see if you can have a meeting with HR involved.





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