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Employer wants to review my flexible working well after trial period

(11 Posts)
Poosnu Tue 26-Mar-13 08:20:20

I hope that someone will be able to help!

I am returned from maternity leave in early September and my employer agreed to my flexible working request for a 3 day working arrangement (I think in part following precedent as another colleague already has this arrangement).

This was stated to be subject to a 3 month trial period, and in early December the head of my department was supposed to discuss the arrangements with me to see if they were working and whether they would become permanent. A meeting was not scheduled and no one had any sort of discussion at that time with me about my working arrangements.

I had my annual appraisal yesterday. My line manager told me that the department manager wants to meet with me to discuss my flexible working arrangements. I have now been working on this pattern for more than 6 months. It will most likely be 7 months by the time the meeting is scheduled.

I understand that they want me to increase my hours a bit because the department is busy. I suspect they would prefer not to hire a new member of staff as this would cost too much, and are instead trying to get me to do more. I also suspect they see me as a bit of a pushover as I am hardworking and generally non confrontational.

I do everything possible to make my new working arrangement work; working from home most evenings to meet deadlines, monitoring blackberry on non working days, coming into the office on non working days for client meetings where necessary, making myself available for conference calls from home and exceeding my pro rata billable hours (I am a non transactional lawyer).

I feel very strongly that I don't want to work more than 3 days a week. As an aside, I am 9 weeks pregnant with DC2 so will be going on maternity leave in October of this year.

Can my employer now seek to review my flexible working arrangement even though the 3 month trial period has long since passed? Does anyone have any other thoughts about how I should approach the meeting?

Thanks in advance.

flowery Tue 26-Mar-13 12:22:05

Hmmm. Well I think there is certainly an argument that by not withdrawing it at the 3 month stage you can take it to be permanent. If they'd attempted to schedule in a meeting to discuss it and various things had cropped up to force delays, that might be different, or if they'd specifically said we want to extend the trial period by x amount even, but after 7 months I would suggest holding your ground.

Say you are pleased that it worked well for the duration of the agreed trial period and that it has continued to work well since the trial period ended, and unfortunately you don't wish to increase your hours at this time.

Poosnu Tue 26-Mar-13 12:38:57

Thanks Flowery. I think that would be a good approach to take. I am not usually assertive enough but this is something that is very important to me.

There was no attempt to schedule a meeting at 3 months and they didn't suggest extending the trial period.

I think that one of the partners has been complaining that there are insufficient staffing levels at the moment (I happened upon some email correspondence about this last month) and the department manager is trying to use my flexible working review to help solve this.

Blankiefan Tue 26-Mar-13 20:14:08

Might it be worthwhile suggesting that you compromise (given they missed the official review date) and that you increase your hours for a defined period of time (say 6 months) to help with the busy period (if it's a peak?). This would let you go back to your 3 days after your next Mat Leave and would give you extra in your Mat Pay calculations.

Chances are, when you are on Mat Leave, they'll cover you with someone who could address the longer term resource issues in the dept when you return to your 3 days? (as they'll already have had to recruit and train your cover person)

It might not work for you but if you could be seen to be offering a solution, it could ultimately let you plan in your own favour...

kingbeat23 Tue 26-Mar-13 20:22:03

I think that as you are in an established work pattern the company might find themselves in a spot of bother if they specified "early December" as a review date and nothing was done about it. I would check with ACAS to find out.

The thing bothering me would be the fact that to stay up to date with your work you feel it's necessary to "work" on your days off.

I used to do this when I first returned after mat leave, thinking that it would be appreciated if I was showing willingness to work, muck in and go the extra mile. However, during an appraisal it was shown to me that it might be construed as not being able to manage my workload effectively and poor planning on my behalf. If you can manage to work effectively and to your deadlines etc within the 3 days, then leave it at just that. Go and get free, professional advice and make sure though!

LexyMa Tue 26-Mar-13 20:38:41

How much more than three days are you actually working at the moment? Your counter offer if there is a request to increase your hours might be 'well I actually am doing x hours from home, so if you're going to pay me for them that's great but I still will be in the office the three days that my established working pattern states.'

Perhaps in less arsey terms than I have managed to draft there, but do you see what I mean? Wouldn't it be a benefit to be paid at a four-day rate now and on your next mat leave, while having established that only three days are in the office?

I appreciate that working more than your "actual" hours is standard in some industries so that may be a laughable suggestion

Poosnu Fri 29-Mar-13 13:29:13

Thanks all for your comments.

In my industry it is standard to do more than the contracted 9-5 hours, so what I am doing now is pretty much 3/5 of what I used to do. Coming into the office on my days off occasionally was part of my flexible working request, for making myself available to clients. I don't feel hard done by in that respect.

The department manager actually came in to speak to me yesterday evening. He said he needed to formally review my working arrangements, I said that this should have been done in December, which he acknowledged. He explained that the department had gotten very busy since Christmas and would I consider increasing to 4 days a week.

I said no and explained why not. I also told him about my pregnancy which I think threw him a bit. I said that in the future I would be happy to do 4 days during our three month peak period (Feb to April) and 3 days for the remainder of the year, but I wasn't in a position to commit to it at the moment as I didn't know whether it would be possible to arrange childcare on that basis. I suggested that we have another discussion about that on my return from maternity leave.

We left it that he would have a discussion with the head of department and then come back to me. I suspect he will also be talking to HR.

I didn't go into the argument that my contract terms are now permanent and can't be changed without my agreement, but I will do so if he tries to force changes on me.

I think they want me to increase my hours because I am one of the better fee earners in the department (they have struggled to recruit fee earners they are happy with). They don't want me to leave, so this isn't their motivation here.

Mandy21 Fri 29-Mar-13 19:33:52

OP don't you have a new contract? I'm a lawyer too and went from FT to 3 days and had to sign a new contract for the 3 days- I would have thought that most firms would have had this sorted?! If you're on a 3 day contract, they can't make you increase, they can of course ask and I think you've handled it very well.

Poosnu Fri 29-Mar-13 22:46:18

Mandy - I have an addendum to my contract (which we both signed) to implement the change to 3 days. This had the 3 month trial period and the December review built in.

How are you finding working 3 days as a lawyer? I'm beginning to wonder if it will work out or whether I'll always been under pressure to do more.

Mandy21 Sun 31-Mar-13 13:04:22

I've been 3 days now for 7 years. Enjoy the job, on a good day I think its the perfect work/life balance, on a bad day, I feel like I do half a job at home and half a job at work!! I think thats probably a working parent mentality though.

Its worked very well for me - kept my hand in, given me intellectual stimulation etc outside of the home. I have always checked emails / taken calls on my days off and occasionally re-arranged my days to accommodate trials etc. I'd been with the firm for some years before I went p/t so fortunately the quality of my work has been maintained and they know I'll do whats necessary, even if it means working from home, to maintain client service. I think you're always expected to do more than your hours (and you'll probably put yourself under pressure too) and its needs goood organisation etc when you're going to be out of the office for 2 days a week.

The only downside is that I think a 3 day weeker (at least at my firm - top 500 regional firm) is perceived as not necessarily committed (as a full timer or even a 4 day weeker would be) and so I've not been promoted in all of that time, despite hitting targets / doing BD etc. Thats frustrating but I see that as the price I have to pay for knowing that I'm at home with the children for more days than they're at nursery! Good luck!

Mandy21 Sun 31-Mar-13 13:05:26

Sorry meant top 50 regional firm!

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