We have just been taken over by another company and they are making 28 people redundant. I only work term time and have done for the past seven years. They have now told me they cannot promise me term-time working and I may have to change contract to full time. Are they allowed to do this ?
It appears that the new company are making considerable changes to the workforce, which will inevitably have involved significant change to how work is to be carried out. It’s not clear, but I have assumed that your work is affected by the redundancies in that there will now be fewer staff to carry out the work you do.
However, changing your hours from term-time to full-time working is a fundamental change to your contract of employment about which you should be consulted. Making a change without your agreement will be a unilateral variation of contract and might entitle you to claim constructive or unfair dismissal.
Your employer might suggest that there is a good business reason for the change – a need to reorganise work after the redundancies that makes you working term time impractical. This could form a defence to a claim for constructive or unfair dismissal.
You could also argue that requiring you to work full time is indirect sex discrimination, in that more women than men have flexible working arrangements (particularly term time working) to enable them to care for their children. Your employer would have to justify the full-time work requirement as a “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”. How you have worked in the past, and particularly how your work has been carried out during school holidays, will be a relevant factor.
It seems as if you are at an early stage in any consultation around redundancies or changes to your hours. You should make sure to raise your reasons for needing term-time working and how that has worked successfully in the past. Ask your employer why they think it can’t work under the new structure and suggest ways around this.
Ultimately if you are made redundant purely because you work term time only, or if you have to leave because your employer requires you to work full time, you should take advice on your specific circumstances to see if you have a claim for unfair dismissal and/or indirect sex discrimination.