My daughter is on a fixed-term contract and has been told her contract will auto-renew in May. She is due next month and has entitlement to SMP. This week she has been informed that her hours will be halving as of May when her contract renews to 20 hours. The reason being given is there is less demand for contracted staff over the summer/they have a bigger casual workforce in the summer months. Am I right in thinking they cannot do this and if there is a business need to reduce hours should it be others whose hours are reduced first?
Firstly, we need to know the exact reason for the change given she will surely be on maternity leave in the summer and also has this happened in previous years? I would imagine that every year there is this issue with seasonal hours. The key is to remove the fact she is pregnant and ask would they do this if she wasn’t pregnant? They must not treat her any differently as they would a full-time employee (this also includes for being pregnant).
When your hours are changed, you are entitled to be consulted on the change and, if you have good reason to turn down the changed hours, you should be offered a suitable alternative before potential redundancy. Women on maternity leave have priority over suitable alternative roles in redundancy situations.
To me cutting her hours in half isn’t offering her a suitable alternative. Ideally she should try to negotiate with her employer by explaining why she cannot do the new hours and suggesting solutions on what she can (she might want to reduce her hours after maternity leave). However, if she is unable to reach an agreement she can look at what her contract says and go from there. They can only make a contractual change with her agreement.