I work full time and am a single parent. I recently asked my manager if I could work flexi hours and was turned down. Then my daughter had a hospital appointment. I put in an afternoon holiday so I could take her and I was told I wasn’t allowed time off to take her to hospital as my boss was off and the office is not allowed to be un-manned – even though it is when I am at conferences. Where do I stand?
The question that you have posed raise a number of different issues. The first is the flexi hours request. It appears that this request was simply made orally and refused orally. You have not mentioned the age of your daughter, but I am presuming that she is under 16. This means that you have the right to make a formal request for flexible working. This should be in writing and give as much detail as possible on the reasons why you need to work flexibly and the hours that you are requesting. Even if you have been turned down orally, I would still suggest that a formal request is made, since this will trigger a formal process which has a timetable and which your boss should follow. Failure do so would result in your boss being in breach of the Flexible Working Regulations. If the boss refused out of hand this would also give you a right to claim. You might also be able to claim sex discrimination on the basis that you were treated less favourably, although this might be more difficult if your boss is a woman (not specified) and you are the only other employee.
On the second issue of asking to take time off to deal with a hospital appointment, you are allowed to take emergency time off to deal with a dependant. I am not sure whether this was, however, an emergency and so I am assuming not but if so, you could raise this point. On the basis that it was a routine hospital appointment and your boss was out of the office so the office was unmanned, it would be the boss’s prerogative to refuse to grant the afternoon of holiday that you requested on this occasion. I appreciate your point about the office being unmanned when you were on a conference, but I still do not think that this would be enough of an argument for your boss to have to grant this holiday day. However, if the boss continued to do this on every occasion that you requested time off, such that it made it impossible for you to assist your daughter when necessary or take your contractual number of holiday days, you could argue that the way your boss is behaving is making it so difficult to work that it is eroding the trust and confidence between you. If this is the case, it may be enough to entitle you to resign and claim constructive dismissal (if you have over a year’s service). If this problem should continue and relations between your boss continue to be strained, I recommend seeking professional help. In the meantime, I would get in your formal request for flexible working.