I have been working for my company for nine years and since the birth of my second child I have been working the same set part-time 16 hours for two and a half years verbally agreed in a meeting with my manager. I also have a seven year old I have to take to school. I work two shifts in the week and a shift on a Saturday at any time. I’m also type 1 diabetic. My company has merged with another and under this merger they are now saying that they cannot support my flexible working and have asked me to come in early for one weekday shift, which I can’t do due to childcare. I have now had four meetings with the end result being my contract will be terminated if I don’t agree to the new terms in the next week. In these meeting I have been harassed into finding alternative childcare which won’t work for me. I have explained that from January I can start a little earlier as my two year old will be in nursery, but they are insistent I start at 0830, which I can’t do. They say this is so I can open up the shop, which is normally a single-man job. However, I am unable to work alone due to my Type 1 diabetes. When I informed the Company of this, they told me that another manager would be there with me which seems to make my presence unnecessary. What would you suggest as my next course of action. Would it be internal grievance as I am likely to get dismissed in the next week or straight to Acas? Also what notice rights do I have if and when I am dismissed?
I understand that since your return to work after your second child two and a half years ago, you have been working part time hours; namely two shifts mid week and one eight-hour shift on a Saturday at any time. You have been with the Company for nine years. The Company recently merged with another and you have now been informed that your hours are to be changed. You have been told that unless you agree to change your shift pattern to start work at 08.30 on one of your mid-week shifts, you will be dismissed. You have informed the Company that you are unable to do this due to childcare arrangements. Furthermore, the requested change is so that you can open up the shop, which is normally a single-man job. However, you are unable to work alone due to your Type 1 diabetes. When you informed the Company of this, you were informed that another manager would be there with you. Your view is that, if this is the case, then you cannot see why you are required to work this early shift too. You have been told that if you do not accept this change you will be dismissed for “some other substantial reason”. You feel that you are being unfairly treated due to your sex, your diabetes and your part-time status.
In general, terms and conditions of employment cannot be changed without agreement. However, it may be open to an employer to “force” a change in the absence of an agreement by dismissing the employee for “some other substantial reason” and then offering re-engagement on the new terms in an effort to demonstrate that a reasonable alternative was available and the employee, if the new terms are not accepted, has failed to mitigate his or her loss.
However, given the reasons you give for rejecting the proposed changes – i.e. that you have childcare commitments and, your condition means that you are unable to work unaccompanied – and the fact the Company is pushing you for acceptance, my advice is that you raise a formal internal grievance in writing without delay. Your grievance should set out all of the points you raise in your email and concentrate on the fact that (1)you have childcare issues and (2)in any event you would be unable to do the shift they require alone so it is unclear why this change is being forced upon you. You should say that forcing the change could potentially be discriminatory on the grounds of both sex and disability. Your employer should deal with this grievance before terminating your contract. If the Company terminates your contract without dealing with your grievance, or if your contract is terminated after your grievance is dealt with but the changes are still forced, then you should get in touch with ACAS without delay to discuss your options, which may include a claim for unfair dismissal and/or discrimination.
Should you require any further assistance, please contact Tracey Guest on 0161 672 1425.
*Lucy Flynn assisted in answering this question.