Flexible working after Maternity Leave

Flexible Working After Maternity


Many employees, upon returning to work after taking maternity leave, will have greater time constraints placed upon them by virtue of having a newborn child to look after and raise. Parents of children under the age of 17 years old, or under 18 years old if the child is disabled, are entitled to request alternative work schedules and flexible working patterns. 

Various flexible working patterns can be considered for employees returning to work after maternity leave:

- Part-Time – the employee works for a reduced number of hours; 

- Flexi-Time – the employee usually has a set number of core hours and is free to decide when to work those hours; 

- Annualised Hours – the employee has a set number of hours over a year (as opposed to a week or a month) and chooses when to work those hours; 

- Compressed Hours – the employee works the same number of hours as before, but over fewer days; 

- Staggered Hours – employees in the same work place start, take breaks, and finish work at different times; 

- Job Sharing – two people perform the same job, usually with one following on from the other with an overlap in between; 

- Home working – the employee carries out their duties from home. 

Depending upon an employee’s position and preferences any of these alternative work schedules can be combined to produce a result suited to the employer and employee.

To commence the application process, the parent must inform their employer of the following factors, dated and in writing:

- A statement to the effect that the application is being made under the statutory right to request flexible working;

- Confirmation that the employee has responsibility for the child and is the mother, father, adopter, guardian or foster parent; or married to or partner of the same;

- Explain the effects that the employee feels an alternative work schedule change will have on their employer;

- Explain how the employer should deal with any such effects;

- Specify the desired flexible working pattern;

- Specify the date on which they would like the new pattern to commence; and

- State whether any previous application has been made.

This request can take the form of a letter. Alternatively, employers may choose to adopt a standard form which addresses the above points. Employees should check on this point with their employer before making any such request.

The employer should acknowledge this request. From the date the request is received, the employer has 28 days in which to set up a meeting with the employee to discuss their request.

Following the meeting the employer has 14 days in which to inform the employee of their decision. At this stage, the employer has three choices: they can accept the employee’s request for flexible work; reject it but accept an alternative work schedule that has been discussed with the employee at the meeting; or reject the request and any alternatives. Business grounds must be supplied for any rejection. The reasons for those grounds applying must also be set out. In the event that the employee receives a negative decision, they have the right to appeal within 14 days against this decision. This appeal must again be made in writing and must clearly state the employee’s grounds for making the appeal. Having received the employee’s written appeal, the employer must arrange a meeting to discuss the appeal within 14 days.

14 days following the appeal meeting, the employer must write to the employee with their final decision. If the appeal is accepted, the employer simply needs to point this out, stating that the employee’s original request for flexible working will be accommodated. If the appeal is rejected, reasons must be given to support the decision.

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