I work for the local government. They are introducing a new care service – all staff have the option to either apply for the new jobs or stay as we are at present. The new care service will be starting in April 2011. My manager informed me that I had to fill in a flexibility working form. I believed this to be so that I could secure my working pattern if I was going to apply for the new job. I have worked my present hours for over 4 years, with the agreement of my old manager. My present manager requested that I attend a meeting to discuss my working hours, which I did. There were two managers present at this meeting and a HR representative. I was asked why I worked my present hours and also if I could work earlier than I do and if I could do more hours on the weekends. This meeting was not for my benefit, but for them to try and change my hours as they kept asking me what different times I could work. They also did the same to two other workers. I was also told that I had to fill the form in as soon as possible. I don’t want to apply for this new job and I don’t want to change my hours as it fits in with my children. I don’t understand why my manager is requesting that I fill in a flexibility working form as I’m not the one making a request to change my hours. Can my manager change my hours? If I don’t apply for this new job what rights do I have as eventually my present job will not go on after this new service is up and running?
From the interview that you have had with your employer about your working hours it seems that they are interested for you to work longer hours than you are currently contracted to. An employer cannot force an employee to change their working hours. If an employer wants to change any parts of an employee’s employment contract then they have to consult with them about the changes and gain the employee’s agreement. So in the current structure, they cannot change your working hours without your agreement.. However, it may be that they are trying to understand your working hours preferences as they develop the new structure from April 2011.
You state that employees can either apply for roles in the new structure or not apply in which case they will no longer have a job after April 2011.
If you choose not to apply for a role in the new structure then after April 2011 your role will disappear so this in effect would be a potential redundancy situation. If this is the case then your employer must follow a statutory process prior to your role being made redundant. This includes advising that your role is potentially at risk of redundancy and consulting with you around this incase there are alternative roles that you could move into. At these consultation meetings you would have the right to be accompanied by a trade union rep or fellow colleague.
Your employer might offer you a suitable alternative position in the new structure. This would have to be appropriate to your skills and seniority level. If you turn this down then your employer may be within their right not to pay you any redundancy money. If they do not have alternative suitable role for you to move into then you would be entitled to a statutory redundancy payment (and this may be enhanced if you have a contractual redundancy scheme – check your employment contract and Employee Handbook).
I would suggest that you have another meeting with your employer or HR and explain that you can not change your working hours and that you know that legally you can not be forced to.
I would also then ask about the new structure and ask about the process for individuals who either choose not to work in the new structure or for whom there is no job in the new structure and ask whether this is therefore a potential redundancy situation in which case you need to be formally consulted with following legal process.
If this fails and you get no further answers or they continue to try and force you to change hours before you are clear of all your options in the new structure I would suggest that you get some further legal advice. Start with ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation & Arbitration Service) who provide clear, confidential, independent and impartial advice. Their number is 08457 47 47 47. www.acas.co.uk
Whilst every care has been taken in compiling this answer, WorkingMums cannot be held responsible for any errors or omissions. This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific legal advice.