Part-time hours suddenly rescinded: ask the expert

After returning from maternity leave I was told I could work part-time hours. On my first day back I was told I can only do this for one month and after that it will be back to full time. I understand that maybe this is a business need, but can they be allowed to treat me like this? The initial agreement was made over the phone and not in writing.

Businesswoman working at home with baby


There are two ways in which you can make a request for flexible working. The first is by making a general request (which you appear to have done). The second is by following a formal statutory procedure.  From what you have said it seems that your employer agreed to your request to work part time and you understood this to be on a permanent basis. There was therefore a permanent change to your employment contract. Your employer is now trying to change the agreement.

You have several options on how to deal with this as follows:

–  Agree to the change but raise a grievance about what has happened and ask your employer to reconsider your request to work on a part-time basis.

–  Refuse to agree to the change and continue to work your part-time hours. Set out in writing the agreement reached and that you do not wish to agree to any further variation of your hours.

–  If your employer insists that you attend on a full-time basis and threatens disciplinary action if you do not comply, then you could choose to resign and claim constructive unfair dismissal given the way you have been treated. However, the problem with this option and the option above is that there is no evidence of the initial agreement. This means that your case would be difficult to prove as it would be your word against your manager’s.

–  Accept the full-time hours, but make a request for flexible working under the official statutory procedure. This will require your employer to re-consider your request to work part time on a more formal basis.

There are deadlines which the employer must meet and they can only refuse your request on certain limited business grounds. There are certain conditions that must be met before applying for flexible working under this route and further legal advice should be sought before taking this option. Whichever option you decide to take will depend on how far and how aggressively you want to pursue your part-time hours. The end result may be that you resign and claim unfair dismissal and sex discrimination.  In the event that you require further information regarding which option to take and/or how to make a formal flexible working request and/or how to pursue a Tribunal, please contract Tracey Guest on 0161 975 3823.

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