Job shares and changing hours: ask the expert

Before going on maternity leave I worked part time in a job share. I worked 24 hours and my colleague 15 hours. I asked to reduce my hours to 15 and my colleague has increased her hours to 21. I have been told my colleague should not have been allowed to work 15 hours as it is not enough. Where do I stand?

All employees who have been working for their employer for 26 weeks have the right to request flexible working to care for a child under 16 years old (from 6th April 2009 – before this date the child must be under 6), or a disabled child up to the age of 18.

However, the right is only to request flexible working, your employer does not have to agree to it if there are business reasons to reject the

Provided that the employer follows the statutory procedure (ie discusses the situation with you in a meeting and gives you the opportunity to appeal) and gives business reasons for the decision to refuse the request, there is little scope for complaining to the employment tribunal. There are grounds upon which the request can lawfully be refused, including: burden of additional costs, inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff or to recruit new staff and detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand.

However, if you have good reason to believe that your request has been unreasonably refused, it may be possible to bring a claim in the employment tribunal for indirect sex discrimination if you have to leave your employment as a result of the refusal to your request. Be aware though that these claims can be fairly difficult to substantiate and you should always seek legal advice about your specific case.

Answer by Helen Climance

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