I am about to return to work after 10 months maternity leave. I was a full time Marketing Manager and requested to return 3 days a week (21 hours). It was refused, and all they stated was “for purely business reasons”. Now, they’ve offered me (and I’ve accepted) a three-month contract doing a role part time, but after that I will have to return to the Marketing Manager role full time, or resign. What can I do?
There are two ways to ask for flexible hours when returning from maternity leave and it is not clear which route you have chosen. The first way is to make a general request. Your employer is under a duty to consider the request and can only refuse the request if there are good reasons for not being able to accommodate the hours you asked for e.g. it is not possible to properly do your job on fewer days.
If their refusal of your request is unreasonable then you could claim sex discrimination. They do not appear to have given you proper reasons and you could therefore appeal their decision and ask them to reconsider, and if they refuse again, to fully explain their reasons for the refusal. The other way to request your change in hours is through the flexible working rights under the Employment Rights Act 1996.
Employers must follow a set procedure and will only be able to refuse a request where there is a recognised business ground for doing so. There are strict time limits that must be followed in this procedure and a meeting must be held with you to discuss your request. If your employer fails to follow the procedure or does not give proper business reasons for refusing your request then you can claim compensation.
To make a flexible working request you must satisfy certain conditions, such as:
– Be an employee
– Have worked for the employer continuously for 26 weeks at the date the application is made
– Not have made another application to work flexibly under the right during the past 12 months (if your previous request was just a general request then you can also now make a request under the ‘flexible working’ provisions)
To make the request you must make a dated, written (whether on paper, e-mail or fax) request to your employer setting out the following:
– That the application is made under the statutory right to request a flexible working pattern
– Confirmation that you meet the eligibility criteria
– The flexible work arrangements that you seek, whether to care for a child or an adult
– An explanation of what effect, if any, you think making the change would have on the employer and how, in your opinion, any such effect might be dealt with
– The date on which the proposed change should become effective i.e. after your new three month job has come to an end
– Whether a previous application has been made to the employer and if so, when it was made.
Once the request is submitted, your employer has to invite you to a meeting and offer you the right to be accompanied. There are specific time limits they must follow in arranging the meeting and then providing you with their decision. You will also have the right to appeal if you are unhappy with their decision. Reasons for refusal of your request are limited and include:
– The burden of additional costs
– Detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demands
– Inability to reorganise work among existing staff
– Inability to recruit additional staff
– Detrimental impact on quality
– Detrimental impact on performance
– Insufficiency of work during the periods you are proposing to work, and/or
– Planned structural changes
If they do not give reasons for refusal which fall into the above categories then you may have a claim for sex discrimination and if you choose to resign as a result then also a claim for unfair dismissal. At this stage I would recommend that you either appeal your first request or submit an application under the flexible working provisions to reduce your hours if this was not the route you initially chose. You should ask for the hours to be changed after your three-month contract has ended. If you would like further advice then please contact Tracey Guest on 0161 969 3131.