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Flexible working requests

After maternity leave
Pregnancy at work

What you need to know

 

Flexible working requests after maternity leave


Can I apply to change my working hours or working pattern on return from maternity leave?


Yes. If you have been working for your employer for 26 weeks or more you have the legal right to request flexible working. Please see NI Direct's website for further information.

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.

 

What type of changes to my working pattern can I request?

You can ask to change:
 

  • the hours you work; for example, reducing the hours, or working compressed hours;
  • the time you work; for example, a later start or earlier finish or flexible start and finish times;
  • 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 advisable to wait before asking for a permanent change in your hours.
 

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.

Please see the procedures as set out in guidance published by the Equality Commission NI and the Labour Relations Agency:
 

 

What should my employer do after I have made a request for flexible working?

Following a request for flexible working, your employer may be able to agree to your request based on your application alone. Where this is not possible it is good practice for your employer to have a meeting with you and discuss your request within 28 days of receiving your application. It would also be good practice to allow you to be accompanied to any meeting, if you would like this.

Your employer must consider the request in a reasonable way taking account of:
 

  • the benefits of the requested changes for you and the business, considering the benefits against any adverse business impact.
  • avoiding discrimination, as a refusal could be indirect sex discrimination.


Your employer must give you a decision as soon as possible, at least within 14 days of the request, and the decision should be in writing. If your employer agrees to the request for flexible working, they should write to you setting out the agreed changes to your working pattern and the date it will start. This will usually be a permanent change to your contract unless you ask for it to be on a temporary basis and your employer agrees.

If your request for flexible working is refused it is good practice for your employer to have a procedure which allows you to appeal the decision. This may give you the opportunity to put forward further arguments and to address your employer’s concerns.

Please see the procedures as set out in guidance published by the Equality Commission NI and the Labour Relations Agency:
 

 

Can my employer refuse my request for flexible working and, if so, can I appeal the decision?

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.


If your request for flexible working is refused it is good practice for your employer to have a procedure which allows you to appeal the decision. This may give you the opportunity to put forward further arguments and to address your employer’s concerns.

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

 

What can I do if my employer refuses flexible working in my current job but offers another job?

If your current job could be done part-time or on different hours you can state that a refusal to allow you flexible working is indirect sex discrimination.

It is for the employer to show that full-time working is necessary for the job you do. It is for an industrial tribunal to decide if your employer has sufficient reason to refuse your request on business grounds. You will have to decide whether to compromise and accept an alternative part-time role so that you continue to have a job with this employer or resign and claim constructive dismissal.
 

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 to work flexibly on a temporary basis and your employer agrees.
 

Can my employer treat me badly or make me redundant if I work part-time or request flexible working?

Your employer is legally required not to treat you badly as a result of your request to change your working hours or because you work flexibly. For example, if you are not promoted because you are working fewer hours, or had asked to do so, this may be indirect sex discrimination.

If you are made redundant because you are working part-time this is likely to be indirect sex discrimination unless your employer can show that the job requires a full-time worker. Any redundancy payment is likely to be based on your part-time hours, unless you can negotiate otherwise.

 
 

 
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