I have just been unfurloughed and returned back to work this week. I agreed a rota with my senior manager and was told they would work around what I was available until we are given the go-ahead to re-open. My husband works for the police and his schedule has been changed recently, which I told my manager and informed them I can only work when nursery is open. I cannot rely on my husband being around and I have no family close by so I need to know my rota in advance in order to book the nursery or I will have no childcare at all. The manager basically told me if the senior manager didn’t agree I would have to take unpaid leave or holiday and has not got back to me on the rota in advance. My manager said it would be difficult to let me know in advance as others with childcare issues are taking unpaid leave. There is also an agreement in our workplace that says we will have our rota at least a week in advance so if they provide me with a rota with only four days’ notice which means I can’t apply for childcare and therefore can’t work my rota’d shifts are they obliged to pay me for them?
I am assuming that the agreement in the workplace about getting the rota at least a week in advance is either part of your contract or part of a negotiated agreement on behalf of all employees or this is always what has happened (we call this ‘custom and practice’). If this is the case, then it sounds as if it is part of your terms and conditions that you will get the rota a week in advance.
So, if you don’t get it a week in advance and you cannot organise your childcare and so cannot work your shifts then this is not your fault. You can look to your employer for any losses you suffer because of this, such as cancellation fees on any childcare booked and ask them to pay you for your shifts as you have not been able to work due to their failure.
Although your employer is not legally required to accommodate your preferred shift pattern simply because you have childcare requirements and your husband is a keyworker, it should, however, consider the needs of you and your colleagues when deciding the rotas and treat everyone reasonably and fairly. If your employer has provided the rota a week in advance and is asking all staff, regardless of sex, to take holiday or unpaid leave if they are unable to work the rotas allocated due to childcare needs, it is unlikely that they are behaving in a discriminatory or unreasonable manner towards you. If they are, however, presuming that only female staff have childcare commitments and are not making the same demand of male staff, then their approach could be discriminatory.
If your employer is not going to be able to get the rota out a week in advance, you could ask your employer if they will furlough you again. Whether your employer agrees is at their discretion, but it is possible, especially where the problem is of their making.
It is always best to try and resolve these matters through discussion, especially at this difficult time when employers are having to deal with all sorts of unknowns themselves, but if you think you are getting nowhere and/or the rota is consistently late, I suggest you raise a formal grievance about the issue(s).