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Maternity and Flexible Working

Expert Advice

“One of our employee’s has returned from maternity leave and asked if she can discuss changing her working hours. What are our obligations as an employer when dealing with a flexible working time request?”

Carley Kerrs-Walton, Employment Specialist at Linder Myers Solicitors advises:-

Every employee who has 26 weeks of continuous service has a statutory right to make a request for flexible working. As a starting point, the employee should put the request in writing, setting out:-

  • The date of the application, the change to the working pattern they are seeking and when they would like the
    change to come into effect
  • What effect they think that the requested change may have on the practice and how in their opinion any such
    effect might be dealt with; and
  • That their request this is statutory and the date of any previous applications (if applicable).

Once the application has been received, you should arrange to discuss it with the employee as soon as possible, without undue delay. It is important that you have a full and meaningful discussion to ascertain whether you can support it fully, not at all or come to some sort of compromise.

There are eight business reasons that an employer can decline a request but please note an application has to be given full consideration and all avenues need to be looked at.

These are:

  1. Burden of any additional costs is unacceptable to the organisation
  2. Inability to reorganise work among existing staff
  3. Inability to recruit additional staff
  4. Employer considers the change will have a detrimental impact on quality
  5. Employer considers the change would have a detrimental effect on the business ability to meet customer demand
  6. Detrimental impact on performance (relating to the individual, team or organisation)
  7. Insufficient work during the periods the employee proposes to work
  8. Planned structural changes and considers the flexible working changes may not fit with these plans

If one or more of these reasons applies, you have good grounds for refusing the flexible working request, should you so wish. However, there needs to be some evidence to support the rationale behind your refusal otherwise you run the risk of a potential employment claim which includes claims for discrimination and a breach of the Flexible Working Regulations.

It is important that any practice has a flexible working policy in place for the purposes of dealing with such requests. Linder Myers Solicitors offers specialist policy drafting and/or assistance when dealing with flexible working requests. Should you require any further information, please do not hesitate to contact us on 0161 837 6844 or via email [email protected]