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I recently returned to work from maternity leave on reduced hours and working at home one day, in the office for three. However, my contract doesn’t state that I work from home one day – it was verbally agreed with my manager and head of the department. I have a new manager and she has said she doesn’t see how it works because she doesn’t like the working from home option. Can she force me to work in the office that extra day? Bear in mind several other people in my department – although not with the same job title – work from home one day a week too.
To summarise, your employer agreed in January to reduce your hours and this permanent change was agreed in writing. At or around the same time your manager and head of department agreed verbally that you could work from home one day a week. This arrangement has been operating for almost six months now without any issue.
Changes made under the flexible working regime are permanent contractual changes. They cannot be unilaterally changed by the business without your agreement. If you do not agree, the business must consult with you and give you formal notice under your contract and offer you a new contract with the revised working arrangements on it.
The question here is whether the verbal agreement about working from home is a contractual change and therefore legally binding. This will depend on the wording of your contract.
If your contract says that only the written terms contained in that document are binding (what is commonly titled an “entire agreement” clause) then you need to check whether the contract also explains how changes can be made. This is normally titled as a “variation” clause.
If there is a variation clause in your contract and it does not explicitly state changes need to be in writing, you can rely on the verbal agreement – your main problem will be evidence of this verbal agreement.
If the contract says changes need to be in writing, check whether you have any email records etc of the agreement with the manager and head of department, in order to satisfy this requirement.
If there is nothing then the easiest way is to ask your head of department to confirm your working from home arrangements in writing now.
It may be prudent to ask your new manager to discuss her concerns about working from home as these may be based on presumptions which you can reassure her about. If she asks you to work from the office, you can explain that the verbal agreement in January was binding (if that is the case), was intended to be permanent, has been in place successfully for a long time and that it reflects the existing departmental practices and the employer’s desired “agile” working arrangements.