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Flexible working requests

During maternity leave
Pregnancy at work

What you need to know


Flexible working requests when on maternity leave

Can I apply to change my working hours or working patterns when on maternity leave?

If you have been employed for 26 weeks or more you have the legal right to request flexible working. If you have been working for your employer for fewer than 26 weeks, you can still make a request which may be considered by your employer.

Your employer can refuse a request under the formal right to request procedure for one of the eight reasons set out below:

  • a detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand;
  • an inability to re-organise work among existing staff;
  • an inability to recruit additional staff;
  • a detrimental impact on quality;
  • a detrimental impact on performance;
  • the insufficiency of work during the periods the employee proposes to work;
  • planned structural changes to the business, and,
  • the burden of additional cost.

You can ask to change:


  • the hours you work, for example reducing the hours
  • the time you work, for example a later start or earlier finish, and
  • location of work environment, for example to working from home for one day a week or a few hours each day.

When should I ask my employer about changing my working pattern?

If you are sure you want to work part-time or change your working pattern when you return to work from maternity leave, you may want to discuss this early to allow you to arrange childcare and your employer to make plans to cover your work.

If you are not certain that you want to change your working pattern, it is best to wait before asking for a permanent change in your hours. Your circumstances may alter after your baby is born.


What is the procedure for making a flexible working request?

An informal discussion with your employer may lead to an agreement about a different work pattern. If an informal discussion does not lead to an agreement, and you have been employed by the employer for more than 26 weeks, you can make a request under the statutory right to request procedure.

You must make a written, dated application setting out:


  • The proposed change to working conditions and date of proposed change.
  • The effect of the change on the work and how to minimise the impact of the change. 
  • A statement that you are making a statutory request with details of previous applications.

If the change is because of a disability, or to care for a child or dependant, you should say this, so it can be taken into account. Unreasonable refusal of flexible working may be sex discrimination or disability discrimination, including associative disability discrimination.


Can my employer treat me badly or make me redundant if I ask to change my hours?

Your employer is legally required not to treat you badly as a result of your request to change your working hours. For example, if you were not promoted or were made redundant because you asked to change your working pattern, that might be indirect sex discrimination.

If my employer agrees to my flexible working request will the change be permanent?

Yes, it will usually be a permanent change to your employment contract unless you ask for it to be on a temporary basis and your employer agrees.

Is it discrimination to refuse my request for flexible working?

If your request for flexible working is refused without a justifiable reason this might be indirect sex discrimination.

Indirect sex discrimination is where an employer applies a provision, criterion or practice to everyone, which particularly disadvantages women as compared to men and which is not necessary for the business.  It is good practice for your employer to consider carefully whether the job could be done in the hours or pattern requested by you.

Your employer can refuse a request under the formal right to request procedure for one of the eight reasons set out below:


  • the burden of additional costs
  • an inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff
  • an inability to recruit additional staff
  • a detrimental impact on quality
  • a detrimental impact on performance
  • a detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
  • insufficient work for the periods the employee proposes to work, and
  • a planned structural change to the business.
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