Do I have a permanent flex contract after years of temporary ones?

I have worked for the same company for 14 years. For the past seven years I have worked set shifts and days due to childcare. Myself and other members of staff have to apply for flexible working every six months as our schedules change when the clocks change. My days have never been changed and they have always been verbally agreed. However, in writing it always states my flexible working request has been denied due to business needs, but that I am on a temporary working agreement accepting and putting in writing confirmation of the shifts/ days I requested. My shifts change by 1/2 hour when the clocks change, but there are never any other changes. A few months ago it was decided my days had to change to meet “business needs”. I was told I had to work every weekend. I fought against this as I have no childcare and I eventually had to agree on one weekend a month or my working agreement would be terminated. Now they are now trying to change my days again. I have been told I have to work every weekend or my temporary working agreement will be terminated. There has been no change in business on my team and there is no difference between weekdays and weekends. We’re do I stand in this situation? Surely a temporary agreement is void after such a long period?

If your flexible working application was formally rejected, there has been no change to your contract but simply an informal arrangement that you do not work each weekend. I would imagine that the “business need” relied on is that there is as much work to do at weekends as during the week, but staff are less likely to want to work at weekends so some level of compulsion is necessary.

As well as the flexible working legislation, you can rely on the fact that imposing weekend working could be indirect sex discrimination on the basis that more women than men would have childcare responsibilities preventing them working at the weekend. Your employer would have to show that compulsory weekend shifts are proportionate to what they are trying to achieve. If you have worked in the same way for seven years and nothing has changed in terms of the business, this might be difficult for them.

You should either make a further request for flexible working or raise a grievance about the fact that their policy is indirect sex discrimination.

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