Flexible agreement changed from four to five days

My wife is currently on maternity leave and wants to return to her work on reduced hours over four days. During her time on maternity leave, the site she works at has announced it will be shutting down and staff will be moved to another site within the organisation. There was verbal discussion between my wife and one of her supervisors about what roles will be offered and agreement that my wife will be able to return on reduced hours over four days at a site that is close to our home. My wife was about to sign the contract when it came to light that the role is actually 30 hours across five days. When she questioned this, she was told that the 30 hours across four days cannot be allocated due the needs of the organisation. However, two of her colleagues have been offered the hours they have chosen which are more favourable and less than the 30 hours across five days and which contradict “the needs of the business as above”. Our child was born premature and has some needs. Basically I wondered with my wife being on maternity, should she have received priority over the other staff and could this constitute discrimination?

As your wife’s site closed whilst she was on maternity leave, her role at that site became redundant. Staff on maternity leave should be offered any suitable alternative employment in priority to other staff. It seems that your wife has been offered a position doing similar work than she did before maternity leave, but that the organisation can’t accommodate her flexible working request to work across four days.

What is not clear is whether the two staff you mention were previously working similar hours or if their hours have changed. If all the requests for changes in hours were made at the same time, and your wife was treated differently because she was on maternity leave, that could constitute unlawful discrimination.

As you say, if other staff work across less than five days, that might contradict the argument that the needs of the business prevent your wife working across four days. Much will depend on the circumstances: whether they are in similar roles and whether the fact they are not there every day make it more important that your wife is. Again, the timing of their requests will be important to establish whether there has been any unlawful discrimination.

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