Flexible rights

Contact Law's employment law experts give some advice on what your rights are regarding flexible working.

Many mothers look forward to returning to work after maternity leave, but are left feeling stressed when trying to fit their working obligations together with the needs of their child. Although parental rights are increasingly being recognised in the working sector, some employers are still reluctant to assist employees in their new situation.

Many women fear that they will be discriminated against, and that having children will hinder their career development. While such discrimination is illegal, it can be difficult to prove. Because many employees fear that they will lose their job, not everyone feels comfortable asking their employer for flexible working hours. Crucially, if you feel that you are being discriminated against or that your employer is unjustified in not granting you flexible working hours, you may want to find out what employment law services are available and what form of grievance you can make.

Legal right to ask for flexible working hours

As a parent who has responsibility for a child under the age of 17, the law provides that you have the right to ask for flexible working arrangements. However, in order to make such a request you must have been with your employer for at least 26 weeks, and cannot have submitted such a request during the past 12 months.

Your employer can take up to 14 weeks to consider your application, and while employers are under no obligation to grant it, they are obliged to consider the application. If your application is denied, your employer must be able to give good business reasons for their decision.

If you have been granted flexible working arrangements they cannot be altered by your employer without your prior consent. If your working arrangements change without proper notification you may be able to make a claim for unfair dismissal; however, before taking judicial action, you should try to talk to your employer in order to see whether you can reach a mutual agreement. Importantly, if your contract of employment includes so-called "flexibility clauses", then your employer has the right to change certain conditions relating to your employment as long as they are not unreasonable.

How do flexible- working arrangements work?

Flexible working hours, if granted, can take different forms. Amongst the most common arrangements are:

– Flexi time
– Working from home
– Working part time

Depending on the arrangement reached, your employment contract may need to change. Additionally, if the arrangement involves you working less then you may need to accept a pay cut.

What happens if my employer does not grant me flexible working hours?

An employer cannot refuse flexible working hours without providing a justification. Such a request can only be denied if there are so-called good business reasons for not allowing it. As a first resort you should always try to talk to your employer before taking further action, but if your efforts are in vain then legal advice is your best chance of successfully resolving the disagreement with your employer.

*This article was put together by experts at Contact Law.




Comments [8]

  • Anonymous says:

    My wife has been doing nursing training for the past 3years and has maintained part time job working 18hrs every week. she has recently qualified and but however does not qualify for SMP for the nursing role. she qualifies for the part time job for which she started her maternity leave at week 28. she is getting 90% of her monthly pay for the first 6 weeks and the other 33 weeks at the statutory maternity rate. However she has no plans to return to her part time job from which she will be getting maternity. She plans to resign while on maternity leave and go back to her nursing role for which she will take 2 months unpaid maternity leave. I am however concerned that she will be asked to pay back the money if she does not return to work. Please advise.

    Editor: She will not have to pay back SMP. If she has been doing the other job that she is not getting SMP for since before the 26th week of her pregnancy she can finish her maternity leave at a different time from the job she is taking SMP for without any impact on her SMP.

  • Anonymous says:

    My wife has been doing nursing training for the past 3years and has maintained part time job working 18hrs every week. she has recently qualified and but however does not qualify for SMP for the nursing role. she qualifies for the part time job for which she started her maternity leave at week 28. she is getting 90% of her monthly pay for the first 6 weeks and the other 33 weeks at the statutory maternity rate. However she has no plans to return to her part time job from which she will be getting maternity. She plans to resign while on maternity leave and go back to her nursing role for which she will take 2 months unpaid maternity leave. I am however concerned that she will be asked to pay back the money if she does not return to work. Please advise.

    Editor: She will not have to pay back SMP. If she has been doing the other job that she is not getting SMP for since before the 26th week of her pregnancy she can finish her maternity leave at a different time from the job she is taking SMP for without any impact on her SMP.

  • Anonymous says:

    Hi, I am currently on maternity leave due to go back to work for the council in March. I am currently full time but due to childcare issues I have asked if I can return part time. I have worked for the council 15 years. I have been informed it is very unlikely as they only want full-time posts. Have I got any rights to appeal? 

    Editor: Have you submitted a written request for flexible working in line with flexible working legislation? If not, I suggest you do so. There is a procedure your employer has to follow and they have only a few grounds on which they can reject a request. If you do not think their reasons are justifiable, you can appeal. See https://www.workingmums.co.uk/advice-and-support/career-advice/197211/flexible-working-a-guide-for-employers.thtml 

  • Anonymous says:

    Hi, I am currently on maternity leave due to go back to work for the council in March. I am currently full time but due to childcare issues I have asked if I can return part time. I have worked for the council 15 years. I have been informed it is very unlikely as they only want full-time posts. Have I got any rights to appeal? 

    Editor: Have you submitted a written request for flexible working in line with flexible working legislation? If not, I suggest you do so. There is a procedure your employer has to follow and they have only a few grounds on which they can reject a request. If you do not think their reasons are justifiable, you can appeal. See https://www.workingmums.co.uk/advice-and-support/career-advice/197211/flexible-working-a-guide-for-employers.thtml 

  • Anonymous says:

    I applied for flexible working hours last year after starting with my company. I work shifts but need set days to plan around my son who has special educational needs. We also do not have any family close to us for support. I was granted the three set days by my manager but in a meeting, my line manager complained about it, as she found it hard to do the rotas. We agreed that I would cover shifts when others were on annual leave.

    The manager left in January, and slowly my line manager began giving me’random’ shifts again, ignoring my request. When I mentioned it to her, she would laugh it off wouldn’t listen.

    I went above her over it quite recently, and after other disputes, she has just resigned. The person I went to told me everyone would be given a 2 week rolling rota, and she meant everyone.

    Others have set days too – does this mean the flexible working policy no longer stands? To me, we have contracts which state the company has one.

    Editor: Please submit your request via our Advice & Support/Q & A box as then we have your email and can ask follow-up question so our experts can give you the best advice. For instance, did you get written agreement over your flexible working request?

  • Anonymous says:

    I applied for flexible working hours last year after starting with my company. I work shifts but need set days to plan around my son who has special educational needs. We also do not have any family close to us for support. I was granted the three set days by my manager but in a meeting, my line manager complained about it, as she found it hard to do the rotas. We agreed that I would cover shifts when others were on annual leave.

    The manager left in January, and slowly my line manager began giving me’random’ shifts again, ignoring my request. When I mentioned it to her, she would laugh it off wouldn’t listen.

    I went above her over it quite recently, and after other disputes, she has just resigned. The person I went to told me everyone would be given a 2 week rolling rota, and she meant everyone.

    Others have set days too – does this mean the flexible working policy no longer stands? To me, we have contracts which state the company has one.

    Editor: Please submit your request via our Advice & Support/Q & A box as then we have your email and can ask follow-up question so our experts can give you the best advice. For instance, did you get written agreement over your flexible working request?

  • Anonymous says:

    Currently having problems in work as we are being asked to work weekends and if we don’t comply we lose our job. Do you know can this be done as I have 2 children under the age of 16. Apparently flexible working will not be considered.

    Editor: Please contact our experts via the Advice & Support/Q & A page box as they will then have your email and be able to ask important follow-up questions to be able to properly advise you.

  • Anonymous says:

    Currently having problems in work as we are being asked to work weekends and if we don’t comply we lose our job. Do you know can this be done as I have 2 children under the age of 16. Apparently flexible working will not be considered.

    Editor: Please contact our experts via the Advice & Support/Q & A page box as they will then have your email and be able to ask important follow-up questions to be able to properly advise you.


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