In danger of redundancy: ask the expert

I have a week of maternity leave left until I’m due back at work. However, my employer today informed me that I’m no longer required to go into work so as not to inconvenience me due to upcoming alternative staffing arrangements that need to be made after reviewing company profit and  loss summary and financial statements. I informally requested flexible working by email three months before returning to work, but my employer put off answering my request with seemingly legitimate reasons. After I pushed them for an answer again, I was verbally informed by a senior colleague last week that my request had been approved. However, today I received a formal letter rejecting my request for flexible working due to structural changes as they are closing our office. They also informed me it’s unnecessary for me to commence work in two weeks and they will pay me until a meeting in three weeks with my other colleagues about how the structural changes will affect our roles. I’m feeling shocked and worried that I am to be made redundant and unsure about what to do from here. As my informal request for flexible working was by email does it mean it isn’t valid? They have suggested I can appeal, but I’m unsure on what grounds I’m able to appeal.

Flexible Working
A request for flexible working made by email is as valid as one made by letter.  I suggest that, subject to the below, in the long term you appeal the decision.  Explain how you think your work pattern can be accommodated.  If you can offer an alternative work pattern(s), this will make it more difficult for your employer to refuse each and every option without appearing unreasonable.
Be as flexible as you can be.  Show commitment to making the arrangement work for the company as well as for you.  Acknowledge the company’s  concerns and ask for a trial period working your proposed pattern.  This will enable you both to see how it works in practice and make necessary adjustments to deal with issues as they arise.  In your appeal remind your employer that your request was verbally granted by your colleague on [date]. If redundancy is very likely, if at the time of your redundancy you have reduced your hours  to part time from full time you probably will receive a much reduced redundancy and notice payout.
I would need to see your contract and have details of your salary to give you exact advice on this. So on balance given the circumstances write to your employer say that in the long term you intend to appeal.  However, because of the uncertainty over the future of your team you feel it would be sensible to wait and see how your role has changed before proceeding with your flexible working request.

Possible redundancy
If other staff have been informed of possible redundancies and you have not this is unfavourable treatment on the grounds of maternity. If you are selected for redundancy I suggest you get immediate advice to see if you have been selected because of your maternity leave, recent request to work flexibly and/or your childcare commitments.   You have the right to return to your former job at the end of your maternity leave.  A refusal by your employer to permit you to do so is a dismissal and this dismissal will be automatically unfair and discriminatory.  Whether you accept your employer’s offer of paid leave is your decision.
My advice is to insist on returning on the day you planned to.  By being in the workplace you can gather exactly what is going on; if some employees are to be kept it being in the office will give you a better chance of retaining your job.
If you are made redundant being in the workplace will give you a better understanding of what is going on and help you to determine if the decision to make you redundant is related to maternity leave etc..   If returning next week and working full time will be difficult then you could ask to be granted the days that  you don’t have childcare for as paid days off, but not holiday.
You were initially  told that your flexible request had been granted and you made arrangements relying on this assurance. Your employer were willing to let you stay at home and receive a full time wage until the meeting in three weeks time,  it is going to be difficult for them to object to you coming in for part of the week but continuing to pay you a full time wage.

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