Verbal agreements: Ask the expert

I work in the public sector and am about to return to work after maternity leave. I had a verbal agreement with my employer that I would be given 4 weeks’ notice of the shifts I would be working so that I can arrange childcare. My employer is now only giving me 2 weeks’ notice.

In law, a verbal agreement can be binding on both parties. However, I am presuming that there were probably no other parties present when you agreed the 4 weeks notice with your boss and that there is nothing in writing from your boss. In the end it would come down to your word against his/hers. Also there is nothing in law that lays down notice times for shift working so that is why you could not find anything in your search.
You have a couple of options open to you.

1) You could put in a formal grievance to your employers using the process in your Employee Handbook if there is one or using the statutory grievance procedure. This would outline that you were verbally offered 4 weeks notice and that has been changed with no discussion by your manager. This might lead to them agreeing to agreeing to the 4 week notice at which point you would need this confirmed in writing.

2) As a parent with a child under 6, you are entitled to put in a formal request to your employer to change your working arrangements under the Request for Flexible Working regulations. Providing that you follow the appropriate procedure when submitting your Request, (either the statutory guidelines or those set out in your Company’s Handbook) your employer has the duty to consider the request properly. There is a specific statutory process in place to apply for flexible working – please refer to the DTI website. This would allow you to request specific work days so you can arrange a nursery for your child. An employer can refuse a request for flexible working if they can demonstrate an inability to rearrange work among existing staff; burden of additional costs; detrimental effect on the ability to meet customer demand; inability to recruit additional staff or a detrimental impact on quality or performance.

If a request for flexible working is refused, you might be able to claim a breach of flexible working legislation or even possibly for sex discrimination but at this point you would need to obtain independent legal advice.
All the best with this!

While every care has been taken in compiling this answer, WorkingMums cannot be held responsible for any errors or ommissions. This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific legal advice.

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