Flexible working rights: Ask the expert

I went back to work after maternity leave and asked to go part-time, but I was told to work three days in the office and two days from home. I did this for a year, but I have been told that I have to come in on one of my two working from home days. I am very reluctant to give this option up as I want to pick up my daughter from school on those two days and I had requested to go part-time before, but my employer insists that it is necessary for me to do so because the work schedule has changed. What can I do?

This question revolves around flexible working. Employees with children under 6 have a right to formally request more flexible working arrangements. Employers have the duty to consider requests properly.
If your current working arrangement was agreed via a formal request from you to work flexibly when you came back from maternity leave, then that was a permanent change to your employment contract. In this case, your employer would need to consult with you formally before any further changes could be made to it. If they do not consult with you then you could claim a breach of contract.

If you had an informal arrangement on flexible working and have been on this arrangement for 12 months+, then this can be seen as “custom and practice” ie the arrangement has continued for a sufficient length of time for it to become ingrained as the your working pattern.
If your employer wanted to change this arrangement, they would have to consult with you to try and get agreement to vary the employment contract to different working hours and explain the business reasons for it. If you refused to accept this change then your employer might terminate employment and offer new terms but risk that you might not accept this variation and claim unfair dismissal.

While every care has been taken in compiling this answer, WorkingMums cannot be held responsible for any errors or ommissions. This information is not intended to be a substitue for specific legal advice.

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Comments [2]

  • Irina Negruta says:


    I have asked for flexible hours at my workplace but it’s been declined due to the fact that I am a Team Leader therefore have managerial role so the workplace wouldn’t cope without me. I am completely shocked and appalled at the fact that there was no alternative on the table, almost feels like they wanna get rid of me this way. I don’t think that I should be refused this, especially when I offered to work 4 full days with only one day off. Please can someone advise me what to do? I am due to return back to work in 3 months but not as full time. Thanks!

    • Mandy Garner says:

      Hi Irina,
      Did you formally request flexible working – https://www.gov.uk/flexible-working/applying-for-flexible-working? If so, your employer can only turn down the request on one of eight grounds. The grounds are fairly broad and so it would depend on whether you could show that the reason given stands up and that they have treated your request reasonably. For instance, do other team leaders work fewer days? There is no statutory right to appeal against a rejection of flexible working, but it is advised by Acas. Flexible working is often a negotiating process so the best thing to do is to address your employers’ concerns and suggest ways around it. Is there a lighter day of the week when you might not be needed or could be contacted at home in an emergency? Could you trial the four-day week for a short period?

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