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I am due to start back at work in January after a year’s maternity leave. My company policy states you have the right to return to your original job after maternity leave. The problem is my boss wants to cancel my flexible working which is a permanent change to my contract. They say that the business has changed (people have resigned and company has chosen not to replace them). It says because we are short staffed I can no longer work from home. HR say they are looking at a unilateral decision to vary my contract. Where does this leave me? I did suggest I could work in the office until 4pm, but they won’t consider this.
I confirm that under statute you have the right to return to your previous job. However, if that job does not exist for whatever reason then the obligation is to offer you a similar position to that which you left. Since you mention that your flexible working arrangement was a permanent change to your contract, they have no right to unilaterally change your working arrangements. You can, of course, consent to the change and then they can introduce it, but if you do not agree you have two realistic options :
– they introduce the changes and try to force it through in which case you need to make it clear that you are working under protest. This could either take the form of you raising a grievance or simply threatening or actually resigning saying that they had fundamentally changed your contract.
– they terminate your contract on notice following consultation and offer to re-engage you on new terms. If so, you can still refuse to accept on the basis that the new terms are not reasonable. This would force you down the route of unfair dismissal and possibly sex discrimination owing to the fact that the reason why you cannot accept the changes are due to your family circumstances and this is likely to disadvantage more women than men.
From a practical point of view, I would suggest that you put in writing your concerns about their alteration of your terms, pointing out that the flexible working arrangements were not said to be temporary and how difficult it would be for you to comply. It is probably best that you also appear cooperative and say that you would like to work with them to find a solution, perhaps suggesting that you would be willing to have a trial period and work more hours at home perhaps or different hours – whatever you can manage. I often find that an agressive approach threatening claims achieves less than trying to appeal to the human side of people’s natures. If this approach does not appear to be working then you should raise a formal grievance under your company procedure