I have a barbers shop and we have a part-time barber who works 16 hours per week and is currently away on maternity leave. We need to change her working days as the business is struggling and we cannot afford to have two people working the same days and we have suggested days and times that will minimise her need for childcare. She has worked for us for just under two years. My question is if she refuses the new working pattern are we within our rights to dismiss her? I am guessing we are unable to make her redundant as the work is still there, but not on the days she currently works.
The first consideration is the contract. Does the contract with this employee allow the changes that are being proposed even with reasonable consultation?
The short answer to the actual question of whether this woman can be dismissed if she does not agree to the suggested changes is no as that is likely to amount to an unfair dismissal and possibly one on the grounds of sex or possibly maternity.
The employer does not say anything about the other employees who are currently working the same day as this lady, but makes the point that she is on maternity leave and that the business is struggling.
Hopefully, this is something that can be agreed between the parties because, if the proposal does give more flexibility and time for her children, she may very well want that. However, I fear that might be making some assumptions that the employer may not be entitled to make.