Homeworking denied: ask the expert

I am currently on maternity leave. Before I left I put in writing to my manager stating that I would like to work 1 day a week from home and 4 days in the office upon my return. He told me verbally that he couldn’t answer that question until I was back after maternity leave. A few days after this I had a meeting with the FD ( who is more senior than my boss) and the practice manager. I told the FD my manager’s response to my homeworking request and he agreed verbally that I could work from home 1 day a week after my maternity leave on a 3-month trial basis. I went into the office last week and my manager asks what I was intending to do regarding hours when I come back in 5 weeks’ time and I said I am going to do what was agreed (4 days in office, 1 day from home). He said that this was not possible as he has just written procedures stating that only advisers are allowed to work from home. I said that it had been agreed with the FD before I left, but he still insists that I cannot do homeworking. Where do I stand as I really don’t want to have to go above him to the FD?

Under the Flexible Working legislation, employees are allowed to request flexible working arrangements from their employer. This does not give them an automatic right to work flexibly since an employer has the right to decline the request if there are sound business reasons. There is a laid down statutory process that the employee and employer must follow when a request for flexible working is followed. This can be found on the www.directgov.co.uk website but in summary:

– Employee must put in writing their request for flexible working which should include that the employee will have responsibility for the upbringing of a child, that the application is being made under the statutory right to request flexible working, the change applied for, the date the change is to be effective from, the effect the employee thinks that this will have on the employer and how the effect could be dealt with.

– Employer & employee must meet within 28 days of the application. Employee has right to take a companion along.

– Within 14 days of the meeting, the employer must provide written confirmation of the meeting. If the application is rejected, the business reasons for this must be stated and must allow for an appeal.

– If the employee wants to appeal the decision, then this must be in writing, within 14 days of the rejection of the application.

– Then within 14 days of the written appeal, the parties must meet again to discuss. The employee is entitled to take a companion.

– Within 14 days of the appeal meeting, the employer must provide a written appeal decision. A rejection must contain grounds and an explanation as to why the grounds apply.

In your situation, you did write a letter to your employer requesting flexible working. You may not have put all the details in that are listed above but the fact that you requested it in writing is important. Your employer should have responded within 28 days. The fact that your line leader said that he couldn’t answer that until you return from maternity leave is not acceptable or legal. It sounds like the meeting with the FD was within the 28 day window so your employer has followed through that part of the process. However, I presume that they did not advise you that you were entitled to a companion which is your legal right. You say that the FD agreed to your request verbally. It is a shame that there is nothing in writing but at least by verbally agreeing you have a commitment since any agreement is binding, whether verbal or written.

I appreciate that you say that you do not want to go above your direct leader but I think in this case you will need to. I would request a meeting with the FD and advise that he had verbally agreed this with you which under law confirms an agreement. Tell him that the Flexible Working legislation allows an employee to request flexible working (which you have done) and that he has agreed that. Ask him for a letter in writing confirming this.

If they start to retract, I would then put in a formal written grievance (your company may have a procedure otherwise look at the www.directgov.co.uk website for the statutory process to submit a grievance) stating that your request has not been handled correctly under the Right to Request Flexible Working legislation. If that fails then you may need to seek further advise from ACAS or a solicitor.

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.





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