Changing a verbal flexible working agreement: ask the expert

I returned from maternity leave in January and agreed with my line manager to return 18.5 hrs a week. We agreed the hours verbally to fit in with nursery times, etc. This has worked brilliantly until now. I have been told after five weeks back that I have been picked to move departments and my new line manager has said I have to start at 8am some weeks [impossible for nursery opening hours] and work a full week finishing at 5pm. I explained that it was impossible for me because of childcare. I have been told that unfortunately it’s up to the manager’s discretion and I have to do this schedule as I don’t have set hours.  They said I can fill another flexible working form which I did, asking if I can start at 8:30am and only work till 5pm when needed. They said they would agree to that, but I would have to take a hour lunch and work till five as needed every Thursday and Friday which I cannot do due to childcare. I haven’t slept for a week and don’t eat. I have had to go to my doctors for stress. Help, I feel totally trapped. What can I do? Do I have any rights?

There is a laid down legislative process that employees should follow if they wish to request flexible working ie it must be in writing etc and you did not formally request your hours in writing as the legislation recommends.
However, by the manager verbally agreeing to the request and by not indicating that this arrangmement was on a trial basis or temporary in nature, I beleive that this would therefore make the arrangement binding into your employment contract. In which case then your employer needs to consult with you to change it rather than just ordering you to change your hours.

It is also concerning that you have been “picked ” to move departments without any discussion around it. Is it the same type of job they want you to go to? If it is substantially different then this might be a redundancy situation anyway. You could ask not to be moved and to stay with your current manager part time since the arrangement seemed to be working.

I believe you have a case to say your employer is trying to change your employment contract without your consent, but since you did not follow the statutory process (ie in writing) with regard to requesting flexible working, your case is not as water tight as it could be. If your employer forces you into the changes you need to seek further support, perhaps from ACAS.

Whilst every care has been taken in compiling this answer, WorkingMums cannot be held responsible for any errors or omissions. This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific legal advice.

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