Forced to go full time? Ask the expert

I’m due to go on maternity leave, but have been asked to go full time upon my return, having worked part time since my last pregnancy. I asked them to consider increasing my hours from 20 to 30, but they have said that my role requires a person to be present at all times and job sharing just wouldn’t work. I am in a marketing role and they have said that recruitment agencies will find it difficult to source anyone willing to do the remainder of my hours if I stay with 20 hours or job share. Can they force me to go full time – will they push me to leave if I refuse to go full time? They want a decision before I go on maternity leave.

As you have the right to return to your old job after maternity leave, I suspect they may be trying to push this through before you start your leave so that you don’t have the right to return to your existing role and hours.

You have a right to be consulted on any change to your terms and conditions, but given that you have a year of maternity leave about to start, another option to avoid any dispute at this point is for you to accept the new hours (since you won’t have to work them before starting your leave anyway) and then in about 12 months, before you are due to return from leave, you could then put in a formal flexible working request to change the hours back. By then the situation may have changed and they may be more amenable to the shorter hours. They would still need to go through a full flexible working request process.

If it is still a refusal, you can appeal and you would be in a stronger position legally due to discrimination legislation. They would need to have a very strong business case, especially if you can claim indirect discrimination in their insistence on full time and no job share.

It isn’t quite so cut and dried if you refuse to work the new hours once they have consulted as it is unclear how strong a business case the employer could make for the change and there is no real evidence of lack of appropriate consultation since you have talked about different hours. So you can put in a formal grievance and fight it on the grounds it is an unreasonable request or a redundancy situation, or constructive dismissal etc. and basically spin it out until you start maternity leave and then claim the right to return to that job in 12 months, or you can take the route I’ve described above. In any event, you won’t actually be required to work these hours for over a year and a lot can happen in that time, so it may be better to bide your time and consider fighting it at the end of your maternity leave rather than at the start.

Comments [1]

  • Anonymous says:

    I am about to start my maternaty leave I am a self employed cleaner but the company are saying they can't find anyone to cover me so I will have to leave. Is this right can they do this to me?

    Editor: Can you write via our Advice & Support/Q & A page box giving more details as to the nature of your contract?

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