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Is this indirect discrimination? Flexible working request.

(13 Posts)
bayvemare Sat 02-Jul-11 17:55:09

Advice required. Have submitted a flexible working request to reduce hours. Policy states that the change can be permanent or temporary. I requested a temporary change for a year. The team may be restructured so I was cautious in requesting a temporary change for longer.
Manager agreed, but said once the year is up I must make a permanent decision, to either return F/T or reduce my post permanently to P/T hours. The policy does not state these terms.
I am aware that the policy is generous, and that manager needs clarity of budget etc. The permanent decision is being asked of both men and women working flexibly.
It occured to me that this requirement, to make a permanent change, is harder for me, with my caring responsibilities, than a man who has none. What do others think?

meditrina Sat 02-Jul-11 18:11:54

That they have been very reasonable. They've agreed to your request, given a whole year to see if it works (both from their pov and yours) and now want to move to a permanent arrangement, and have given you the choice of what you want.

You have known for a long time that this decision is required of you.

It is your indecisiveness that is the sticking point here, not their policies or practice.

bayvemare Sat 02-Jul-11 18:20:32

Agreed; they have been reasonable. The year has not started yet, request replied to recently. The option to apply for temporary part time hours in the policy gives no timescales. My plan was to return to FT in two years, when child starts school. Perhaps I should have been less cautious and requested a temporary arrangement for two years.

Gillg57 Sat 02-Jul-11 18:21:23

It looks like your employer has been reasonable. You do not have a statutory entitlment to flexible working just, in some circumstances, to have the request considered and to be given a proper reason if the answer is no. This appears to be as simple as the definition of temporary. To me a year is pushing it but your employer is okay with that. So once the temporary period is up then it is also reasonable for your employer to expect you to decide what you want to do from then on. It isn't necessarily the case that a man has no caring responsibilities .

RibenaBerry Sat 02-Jul-11 18:43:33

No, it's not discrimination. Employers are only actually obliged to consider permanent flexible working requests. That they will consider 'temporary' ones is going above and beyond. I think allowing the idea of temporary to extend for up to a year is perfectly reasonable, sorry. I think if you specifically wanted the arrangement for a couple of years, you'd have probably been better off not hedging your bets and being upfront. It's uncertainty that often makes things difficult for managers, rather than flexible working itself.


meditrina Sat 02-Jul-11 18:47:22

I'm so sorry that I was confused about the timelines! I think the gist of my answer still stands though.

You sound very lucky in your employer.

bayvemare Sat 02-Jul-11 19:05:54

Thanks guys for the replies. Food for thought.

fgaaagh Mon 04-Jul-11 00:50:13


"It occured to me that this requirement, to make a permanent change, is harder for me, with my caring responsibilities, than a man who has none."

You don't mean a man, you mean an employee who has no caring responsibilities. Just because you are female with children (and an employee) doesn't mean to say you automatically have more or less caring responsibilities than a male with children (who is also employed), and thus shouldn't expect greater or lesser consideration. The key categories are parents vs. non-parents, not mums vs. dads.

Just thought I'd clarify that point wink I've seen too many posts on here which try to link discrimination against parents as discrimination against women, and the automatic link between "female=primary caregiver" isn't a useful one.

flowery Mon 04-Jul-11 08:48:02

"The permanent decision is being asked of both men and women working flexibly"

Plus as others have said, men also have caring responsibilities, and presumably those who are requesting flexible working arrangements definitely do.

Plus, why is a permanent change so much harder than a temporary one? Surely once you've got decent childcare sorted it's easier not to have to change the arrangement?

RibenaBerry Mon 04-Jul-11 21:12:55

fgaaagh - At a common sense and political level, I am totally with you. However, at a legal level, people are right to talk about this issue as sex discrimination. There is no legal protection against discrimination for being a parent, so people have to use sex discrimination instead. The courts take 'judicial notice' of the fact that women disproportionately bear the burden of childcare/raising children in our society, so will see discrimination against parents as sex discrimination against women. I have often idly speculated on how unhelpful this state of affairs is for effecting social change...

fgaaagh Mon 04-Jul-11 21:45:35

RibenaBerry that is very interesting, and not something I was personally aware of.

I'm not sure whether it would be appropriate to start a discussion on that thought or derail this one, tbh! grin But as a gut reaction (without knowing the details/example cases) I'd have to say I agree with your last point. Hmm.

bayvemare Mon 04-Jul-11 23:35:26

It is really interesting. I know childless men and women at work who are temporarily working reduced hours, for quality of life reasons. And then there are parents who are temporarily seeking to work less hours due to their caring commitments.
In these circumstances, the decision that is being asked, at the end of the temporary arrangement, is that much harder for the parent than the childless, because returning f/t is so much more of a juggling act.
Having caring responsibilities is a key factor in the decision making process, and so, yes, the discrimination is against parents, and, in my workplace at the moment, seems an opportunity to cut posts where they can.
I do feel blessed with a generous opportunity to try p/t working for a year before having to decide either way.

moondog Mon 04-Jul-11 23:38:33

The attitude that people are doing their employers a favour deigning to work for them and choosing as and when it fits in with myriad other private concerns really gets on my nerves.

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