Can I be forced to take half a day’s leave for leaving an hour early?

I started with my employer over 15 years ago, working full time Monday to Friday 9-5. I had my son a few years ago and returned to work following maternity leave working Monday to Thursday 9-5. There was an unwritten rule that you could occasionally work your lunch if you required to leave early. In 2015 I was tuped over to a new company under the same contract. Initially the same unwritten rule applied with regard to working lunch. However, this option was removed and instead a form of ‘flexi time’ was introduced (no time was allowed to be built up, however you could start anytime between 8 & 10, but had to work to 4 or 6 etc) My husband occasionally works away from home and on those days I need to do all the pick-ups and drop-offs so flexi does not work for me as I can’t get in any earlier than 9am and I need to be away by 4pm at the latest. I was previously allowed to take an hour’s holiday. I have now been advised that the minimum holiday allowed is half a day. This would mean that over the course of a year instead of 16 hours holiday I would be required to take 56 hours which equates to two weeks holiday. I cannot afford to lose that amount of holidays as then I will struggle for school holidays. Can they keep chopping and changing how this works (even though it’s not in my contract)?

The company probably have in mind a recent decision regarding the Working Time Regulations around working through a break in lieu of a shorter working day. The Regulations don’t allow you to drop a break to leave early. Policies allowing an hour’s holiday leave to be taken would also be unusual.

The solution in your case is probably to make a request for flexible working to allow you to build up limited amounts of flexitime purely to cover the situation when you have sole responsibility for childcare whilst your partner is away. If you are working the core hours 10-4 and this will be for no more than four weeks in the year, it would be difficult to establish a business case that this cannot work. Presumably you could work extra hours in the week building up to or following a week when your partner is away to build enough flexi to allow you to work an hour less when you are needed for both drop off and pick up.

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