Can my manager go back on a verbal agreement on reduced hours?

Before I left on maternity leave I wrote a letter to my employer stating my intentions about how I would like to work when I return. I stated that I would return to work Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday doing 8-hour shifts. We then had a meeting to discuss this further where I was told that my employer wanted me to work Monday, Tuesday and Friday. I agreed to this compromise. I then left on maternity leave on the understanding that I would return to work doing these days. During my maternity leave, my manager phoned me saying that she needed someone full time doing the job that I do and that part time wasn’t good enough and she would be in touch. She sent a letter out a month later, by which point I had been on maternity leave for six months, saying that I needed to give 8 weeks notice letting her know I could return full time or else I needed to submit a flexible working form to her. Is she allowed to change what she previously agreed at such a late date or should she have done this before I left for maternity leave?

Maternity leave


Unfortunately if there isn’t anything in writing or a change of contract then I would say it seems that the conversation before maternity leave was more of an informal decision.

With flexible working applications it is advisable to discuss the new working arrangements with your manager once you are on maternity leave ( the ideal time would be about three months before you want to return to work) – that way it avoids any changes in your team or your role that may impact on the new working pattern.

It is always advised to have an informal discussion with your manager first then if nothing is agreed to complete a formal application. If an agreement is informally agreed the next step would be for your manager to inform HR then for a new contract or an amendment to terms and conditions to be confirmed in writing. I am assuming you do not have anything confirmed in writing, meaning you will need to start the application formally by submitting the form.

I would raise the issue that you were told in discussions with your manager prior to going on maternity leave that flexible working had been approved. I would do this separate to the application itself, but send an email and a copy of your formal application to HR.

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