Misled at return to work meeting: ask the expert

After eight months’ maternity leave I had a meeting with my employer to discuss my return and was told I was returning to my job as I left it and therefore had to return five full days. When I came back I have only been given back about 70% of it. I find myself with very little work to do now on a daily basis. Am I entitled to request a change in hours now? I feel I was misled at my return to work meeting.

You have the right to request a change in your hours but your employer is not obligated to allow that change. Your request can be refused on various business grounds. There are two ways to ask for flexible hours and it is not clear which route you originally used. The first way is to make a general request. Your employer is under a duty to consider the request and can only refuse the request if there are good reasons for not being able to accommodate your request e.g. it is not possible to properly do your job on part time hours. If their refusal of your
request is unreasonable then you could claim sex discrimination.

The other way to request your change in hours/home working is through the flexible working rights under the Employment Rights Act 1996. You can only use this route once every 12 months, therefore if you made a
flexible working request previously, you will need to make a general request this time. Examples of valid reasons for refusal of your request include:

– The burden of additional costs;

– Detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demands;

– Inability to reorganise work among existing staff;

– Inability to recruit additional staff;

– Detrimental impact on quality;

– Detrimental impact on performance;

– Insufficiency of work during the periods you are proposing to work;
and/or

You should explain that there is not enough to do on full time hours and therefore that you could do your job on part time hours. If they refuse your request unreasonable then you would have a claim for sex discrimination and if you choose to resign as a result then also a claim for unfair dismissal. At this stage I would recommend that you submit an application under the flexible working provisions (if you have not already done this in the last 12 months)or make a general request to change your hours.

Sarah Calderwood has assisted with this answer.





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