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My contract of employment states that I work Mon-Fri nine-three. I have worked these hours for the last five years, and have been able to take both my children-aged 10 & seven,to and from school daily. My dept which worked Mon-Fri nine-five was closed down, the files were transferred to another region, and with only eight days notice, all 21 staff were transferred to the call centre which worked seven days a week 8am-8pm. We were informed that after six months we would have to work shifts. I advised my employer that I could not do it, due to my child care commitments. They bought in a shift review and changed everyone’s shift pattern, due to business needs, and now I am told I have to work nine-five one Saturday per month, one week in four 9.30-3.30, and one week in four 12-6pm. The other two weeks in the month I can remain working nine-three. Obviously I can not find child care to cover my children for 30 mins per day one week a month, and then for three hrs per day another week in the month. I raised a grievance and took it to an appeal but they state that due to the ‘contractual change’ie bringing in the shift review, I have to change my working hours. I explained that I simply cannot get childcare cover and they advised me that it is not their problem. I have worked for this company 23 years.
If an employer wants to change any parts of an employee’s employment contract then they have to consult with them about the changes and gain the employee’s agreement. You state that your employer closed down your department and relocated you and your colleagues with only eight days notice.
While it is not clear geographically how far the relocation was, this move is still quite a substantial change to your terms and conditions and eight days consultation does not sound like time for discussion to take place. On top of this, your employer has also substantially changed your working pattern which is another change in your contractual terms. In terms of your working hours, employees with children under 18 have a right to formally request more flexible working arrangements.
Employers have the duty to consider requests properly. An employer can refuse a request for flexible working if they can demonstrate: an inability to rearrange work among existing staff; the burden of additional costs; a detrimental effect on the ability to meet customer demand; an inability to recruit additional staff or a detrimental impact on quality or performance. You state that your employer’s reason for turning down your appeal against the change in contractual hours was due to “contractual changes” via the shift review.
However, it seems as though by failing to sufficiently consult with you around this change at the outset, they have not followed legal procedures sufficiently. It does sound like you may have a legal case for breach of contract and/or potentially discrimination. However, you need further legal advice and so I would suggest you contact either the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) or ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation & Arbitration Service) who provide clear, confidential, independent and impartial advice. Their number is 08457 47 47 47. (www.acas.co.uk) Good luck.
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.