Do I have a right to part-time work after several years of working reduced hours?

I am a teacher and have worked at the same school for several years. I returned to work after my first child was born and my employer agreed for me to come back on reduced hours temporarily with a view to returning to full time in the future. I had a second baby and returned on reduced hours again. I am now due to return after my third baby and have asked to continue as I was on reduced hours, but this time I have been informed that I have to return full time as part time doesn’t work for the school any more. This is not workable for me so I am forced to resign. My permanent contract is still full time, but I have been on reduced hours since 2014. Do I have any contractual rights to work part time or does my full-time permanent contract still dictate my terms of employment?

Pregnant woman stressed at work


If your hours changed after a formal request for flexible working, this would have been a permanent change to your contract of employment. Even if they changed after an informal request, unless there was an express agreement that the reduced hours would be temporary (and in my view, for a particular period), this would be a permanent change. Certainly, after four years, one would expect that to be a permanent change unless there was an agreed temporary period.

You have the right to return to your existing role after maternity leave or to a suitable alternative role on the same terms and conditions if that is not reasonably practicable for your employer. Any alternative role should be with the same hours.

It is not clear why the school say that reduced hours “doesn’t work for them” any more. What has changed?

I suggest making a formal request for flexible working whilst stressing that your request is in effect to work your existing contractual hours. Address any concerns the school has about the reduced hours “not working” for them. Ultimately, if they refuse to have you back, you might have claims for unfair or constructive dismissal, maternity discrimination (around the refusal to offer you your old terms back) and indirect sex discrimination as well as under the flexible working legislation.

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