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I am on maternity leave (AML). Upon returning to work I fear they are going to ask me to change my working hours or even branch. Our contract is based on hours and not preset times. I may be able to accommodate the changed working hours, but due to dropping my older children off to school would not be able to change to a branch further away as I would not be able to get them to school on time. Where do I stand if they’re adamant that I cannot return to my old branch?
Your contract of employment sets out your working hours and place of work. An employer cannot change these terms without your express consent. If your employer forced you to move branches or change your contractual hours then this would amount to a fundamental breach of contract entitling you to resign and claim constructive unfair dismissal.
However, there may be a mobility clause in your contract which requires you to move branches at your employer’s discretion. This type of clause would allow your employer to move you but it must be exercised in a reasonable manner. You would have to explain why you can not move branch and ask that they move someone else instead. If they failed to take into account your childcare issues when considering moving you, then this could be discrimination on the grounds of your sex.
In addition, if there is a reduction in work which means that the company has to consider redundancies then while on maternity leave you have priority over all other employees to remain in your job or be offered suitable alternative employment if all employees carrying out the same work as you are made redundant. You would therefore have priority to stay at your branch over other employees. Also, if suitable alternative employment became an issue, then moving you to a branch which means you can not collect your children would mean that the alternative employment is not suitable. However, it does not sound from your email that a redundancy or re-organisation process has been started, but rather that you are just contemplating the fact that you may be asked to move branches or change your hours. If a reorganisation was started or you were asked to move branches or change your hours then you would need to take further legal advice as it has only been possible to give a general overview of the legal position based on the information provided.
If you would like to discuss your situation in further detail to obtain more specific advice then please call me on 0161 969 3131.