Can I refuse unusual hours for someone with health condition?

(28 Posts)
code Tue 09-Jun-15 15:25:39

I've just made a conditional offer to someone who has declared a chronic health condition. She has asked to do a shift schedule which is at odds with the way we work (starting and finishing much earlier - 2 hours- than everyone else so she can avoid busy period on trains). Unfortunately I can't make this fit as there is no work early in the day and her leaving early will mean the test of the team have to pick up her work during the busiest period. How obliged am I to agree this?

expatinscotland Tue 09-Jun-15 15:27:29

If it is a conditional offer, it sounds reasonable, but someone with more knowledge will be along soon enough.

CloserToFiftyThanTwenty Tue 09-Jun-15 15:28:55

You weigh up the genuine business need against the request

Could you offer her a reduced hours job, so she isn't in when there is no work to do ?

ItsAllGoingToBeFine Tue 09-Jun-15 15:29:19

I think you would have to take "reasonable steps" to accommodate her condition. I dont think allowing her to work a shift pattern which does not exist, and would be of significant detriment to the business and other employees would come under "reasonable steps".

Not an employment lawyer.

Pedestriana Tue 09-Jun-15 15:33:28

Realise you can't give out too much info here but is the nature of the work something where in the two 'quiet' hours in the morning your would-be employee can do the work from the previous day? I've worded that badly - what I mean is, you say her leaving early will mean the test of the team have to pick up her work during the busiest period.
Does the work have to be done same day? Or could she do it when she gets in, ahead of other people?

code Tue 09-Jun-15 15:40:59

Thanks. A bit more info. So the job needs the person to be available to clients between fixed hours. The job is highly specialised and no one else in the team will be able to cover this duty when she leaves. There is no way I can find 10 hours a week of other duties to fill her time in the morning. If I offer reduced hours I won't be able to employ anyone who will be willing to work a few hours per day.

CloserToFiftyThanTwenty Tue 09-Jun-15 15:50:49

Is she so outstanding you would rather have her for fewer hours than hoped (and of course she would cost less), or if you went to the next on the short list would you be happy with them?

SantasLittleMonkeyButler Tue 09-Jun-15 15:51:55

Tricky. Is there scope to change the hours during which this service is available to clients? Just the specific service she offers - not the entire business smile.

If not then, regrettably, I don't see how this can work for you.

For example, if you owned a salon (not saying that you do) and you were employing a nail technician. If the busiest time for nail appointments was between 4pm & 6pm, then you would not be able to employ her on the basis she leaves at 3.30pm every day would you? To do so would be extremely bad for business I should imagine.

I think it really does depend what the business & job are.

ItsAllGoingToBeFine Tue 09-Jun-15 16:14:41

In that case I dont think you are at all obliged to agree to this.

Alanna1 Tue 09-Jun-15 16:27:21

Why don't you take some specific advice on your situation? Would it work if she came and left later, rather than earlier? So if e.g. the normal hours were 9-5, could she work 11-7? Could she work from home?

ItsAllGoingToBeFine Tue 09-Jun-15 16:29:59

Also, how does the shift schedule requested relate to her chronic condition? IE if she has a declared medical condition, but wants the unusual shifts for another reason eg childcare/another job etc, then you dont need to think about the condition. If the shifts were to fit around dialysis or something then you would.

balletgirlmum Tue 09-Jun-15 16:33:59

I can't see how you can make it work.

For example you can't allow a person whose job it is to answer phones & deal with queries to come in two hours before the phone lines open.

Or a shop worker to start work two hours before opening time unless they are employed to stock take etc

Viviennemary Tue 09-Jun-15 17:05:28

You sound as if you wowant to accommodate this person's needs but you simply can't. You have in no way acted unreasonably. So imho it isn't a question of discrimination. You withdraw the offer because she isn't able to do the hours required and it just can't be worked round. If it was one day a week or a temporary situation then you could try and work round it but it just isn't feasible.

The only way I could see round it is that she fits her shifts into four days and starts earlier and works later on these days so the work would be covered on four days. But I don't expect this would be acceptable.

code Tue 09-Jun-15 18:40:10

Thanks everyone.
The job can't be done from home. It really does need cover between 9 and 5 -after which time there are mechanisms in place to take the work over. It's a pretty critical service so can't be left uncovered. I think I'm going to have to say no and see if she's willing to work normal hours.

FishWithABicycle Tue 09-Jun-15 18:58:08

It's not discrimination if you genuinely can't make an option work for the business. However, don't forget that this person impressed you enough at interview to make you sure they were the best person for the job. If you can't accommodate their needs you will, by definition, be getting second best so it's worth taking a moment to try to make it work.

How busy is it 9:00-11:00? - Could you offer a 0.75fte position of 11:00-17:00 each day? You would then have your busiest time covered and they would then be entirely at liberty to hang out somewhere secluded until the rush-hour dies down and travel becomes more possible.

code Tue 09-Jun-15 19:14:29

I'd be very happy to accommodate a job share but having 2 hours every day not covered is a big service risk. The 'busy' bits are first and last thing which don't fit with what she wants. There are client facing elements too which will need her to be there at 9am on 2 days. To be honest I'd rather go back out to advert than compromise the service in this way.

code Tue 09-Jun-15 19:44:12

Sorry meant be there at 5 not 9.

BackforGood Tue 09-Jun-15 20:00:23

You are obliged to "make reasonable adjustments" to make a situation work. From what you describe, it would not be reasonable for her to work these hours as a) there isn't anything to be done during the first 2 hours a day she wants to work and b) she wouldn't be available for 2 hours of the day when you need staff to be available to clients.
So, in my very humble opinion, yes, you can refuse the request as it can't work in your company. In another job, it might be more feasible, but for you, it's not.

RedandYellow24 Tue 09-Jun-15 20:06:18

The only thing that could work is to offer her reduced hours and pay but then offer her extra hours to someone else?

PeppermintCrayon Tue 09-Jun-15 20:18:30

There's another solution that hasn't been mentioned on this thread yet. If she has a chronic health condition, she is potentially eligible for Access to Work funding. There's an outside chance they may pay for transport costs, e.g. taxi fares, if she can't cope with trains. I would get onto them and find out what help would be available before you make a decision.

code Tue 09-Jun-15 20:30:36

Thanks I'll certainly look into the access to work funding, thanks.

Penfold007 Tue 09-Jun-15 20:37:51

If there are mechanisms in place to cover the other 16 hours a day are you really sure you can't make reasonable adjustments? Perhaps starting and finishing and hour earlier or later might work, two hours is a huge ask.

NotCitrus Tue 09-Jun-15 21:05:12

Could she work say 3 long days coming in before and leaving after rush hour? Or manage one a couple times a week? Or say work 8-5.30 with an extra long break in the middle?

AtW should pay for taxis if necessary but their admin is terrible and getting worse, and taxis in rush hour take forever.

If it's something that has to be done 24 hours/day but you are only in charge of the 9-5 team, then talk to whoever manages the out of hours team - if they are paying lots of money to cover anti-social hours but you have someone willing to cover some of those as part of their role, it could even save money.

code Tue 09-Jun-15 21:14:51

The other 16 hours a day are emergency cover only. The 'business' happens 9-5, there is no flexibility for the OOH people -who are a different profession- to cover part of the day shift. Long days won't work as I'll be left with 2 shifts uncovered with no funding to employ a job share, plus this role's work concludes by 5. I guess I could compromise 8 to 4 although it's central London and tubes are worse at 8 than at 9. Gah.

pressone Wed 10-Jun-15 08:38:25

If an employees condition is covered by the Equalities Act 2010 then an employer has to consider reasonable adjustments. These have to be reasonable to the health condition (i.e. the change of times must have some relevance to the condition) and the business.

You have stated the reasons why the adjustments are not reasonable to the business, but you need to explore the other options e.g. access to work, do you have any European customers who start an hour earlier than you and she can take their calls with a compromise on shifting the working day 1 hour backwards rather than two. You need to document her request for the hours she wants and the medical reason for them and your business reasons for refusing and any compromises or alternative steps you have taken to try to accommodate them.

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