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I have worked for a car hire company for the last two and a half years. In December 2009 I had my baby and I’m planning on returning to work at the end of August (w/c -31st). I’ve had a meeting and given a letter asking to go part time, instead of full time. However I have recieved a letter back saying I have to have another meeting to explain why I am needing to work part time, to demonstrate why no one can look after my child whilst I’m at work, etc. Before having my son I worked six days a week for nine hours a day, I’m not a manager and no one else did this so I don’t understand why they won’t allow it, and whilst I have been on maternity leave they have hired three new part time members of staff. Where do I stand? And what is the procedure? As they have told me to take a union rep with me to the next meeting.
There are two ways to ask for flexible hours when returning from maternity leave and it is not clear which route you have chosen. 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 the hours you asked for e.g. it is not possible to properly do your job on fewer days. If their refusal of your request is unreasonable then you could claim sex discrimination.
The other way to request your change in hours is through flexible working rights under the Employment Rights Act 1996. Employers must follow a set procedure and will only be able to refuse a request where there is a recognised business ground for doing so. There are strict time limits that must be followed in this procedure and a meeting must be held with you to discuss your request. If your employer fails to follow the procedure or does not give proper business reasons for refusing your request then you can claim compensation. To make a flexible working request you must satisfy certain conditions, such as:
To make the request you must make a dated written (whether on paper, e-mail or fax) request to your employer setting out the following:
Once the request is submitted, your employer has to invite you to a meeting and offer you the right to be accompanied. There are specific time limits they must follow in arranging the meeting and then providing you with their decision. You will also have the right to appeal if you are unhappy with their decision. It does not seem correct for them to ask you to justify why no-one else can look after your child. They should be concentrating on whether your job can be done on a part time basis.
I note that others are working part time and it would seem therefore that you should also be able to do your job on a part time basis but you will need to ask your employer the reasons for refusing your request (if they do refuse it). There may be different aspects to your job that require your attendance at work every day.
Whilst every care has been taken in compiling this answer, WorkingMums cannot be held responsible for any errors or omissions. This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific legal advice.