When I had my second daughter I suffered health issues that have never gone away. I returned to work three days a week to try to reduce stress and to accommodate my health concerns. Work provide income protection so I submitted a claim and have just found out my claim was successful. All good so far but where do I stand with my employment contract? My employer wants to change me to a part-time contract, but I refused on the advice of the broker as the insurance needed me to remain on a full-time contract for the loss of income. Work have continually applied pressure to sign a part-time contract and now the claim is successful they are pushing again saying it won’t affect the insurance. To me this seems like a grey area as if I sign a part-time contract my benefits might be affected. Surely I should still receive pension on my basic salary which would include the insurance money? And life assurance should be on my income protection money too? Am I entitled to full bonus or does this reduce? Finally should I have been getting sick pay for the days not worked for ill health during the six months I waited for the insurance to pay out?
I understand that since having your second daughter you have suffered health issues that have never gone away. You returned to work three days a week to try to reduce stress and to accommodate your health concerns. Your employer provides income protection so you submitted a claim and have just found out that your claim is successful. However, you are unsure where you stand with your employment contract as your employer wants to change you to a part-time contract, which you have refused on the advice of the broker. This refusal was on the basis that the insurance (presumably the income protection insurance) needed you to remain on a full-time contract for the loss of income. Your employer has continually applied pressure to sign a part-time contract and now your claim for income protection has been successful your employer is pushing again and informing you that signing a part-time contract would not affect the insurance. You are concerned that if you sign a part-time contract your benefits may be affected. Your view is that you should still receive pension and life assurance based on your basic salary (as currently received) in addition to your income protection money. You also ask whether you are entitled to your full bonus or whether this would be reduced. Finally, you ask whether you should have been getting sick pay for the days not worked for ill health during the six months you waited for the insurance to pay out.
In general terms, an employment contract cannot be altered unless by agreement. Although you do not say how long you have been working part time or whether this is intended to be a permanent arrangement or not, it may be that your employer could argue that, even if it is not in writing, there has already been an agreement to change your contract of employment on the basis that you have requested part-time hours, your employer has agreed and you have worked these hours for some time.
If a full-time employee reaches an agreement with his or her employer to work part time going forwards and signs a part-time contract to formalise these part-time working arrangements, then any agreed reduction in working hours would likely be reflected in pay and benefits such as bonus, life assurance etc, all of which I would expect to be reduced on a pro-rated basis, unless it was agreed otherwise which of course it is open for the parties to do. It is also worth remembering that signing such a contract would mean that an employee would have no automatic right to return to a full-time contract in the event that, for example in your case, your health issues allowed you to increase your working hours again. Therefore you would need to give careful consideration as to whether you want the agreement to work three days a week to be a permanent arrangement.
It seems that your situation is complicated by the fact that you benefit from an income protection insurance policy, against which you say you have now successfully claimed. Your main concern appears to be how your income (including that from the insurance policy) and benefits may be affected by signing a part time contract. Whether the successful insurance claim covers previous lost income, future lost income or both, my advice is to raise your concerns with HR regarding the potential effect of signing a new contract of employment and, if what your employer is saying is correct and the insurance cover would not be affected by signing such a contract, obtain something to this effect in writing to ensure your position is protected. If you are satisfied that your income would remain protected by the policy, you could also try to negotiate an agreement with your employer to retain your full-time bonus and life assurance entitlements before signing a part-time contract.
Furthermore, if the part-time working was agreed as a reasonable adjustment to accommodate your health issues, and your health issues have a long term and substantial effect on your ability to perform day to day activities, you may be able to argue that any detriment to you resulting from signing a new contract may amount to discrimination on the grounds of disability.
In terms of whether you should have received sick pay during your absences, this would depend on how you had reached the agreement to work only three days, whether the absences were covered by fit notes and what company sick pay provisions are in place. I would raise this issue within any meeting with HR and when discussing your concerns regarding entering into a part time contract.
If you are unable to reach an agreement which suits you, then you can raise a formal grievance to deal with your concerns in an effort to reach a resolution before taking any further action.
Should you require any further advice, please contact Tracey Guest on 0161 672 1425.
*Lucy Flynn assisted in answering this question.