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Flexible working

(6 Posts)
SarahBumBarer Mon 22-Aug-11 11:40:33

Hi - would be grateful for a bit of advice on a flexible working request that my husband is about to make. He currently works full time (ha) ie five days per week and wants to move to four days (reality is that he will move from working 6-7 days per week to working 5-6 days per week).

He is ready to leave his job. The only thing which might keep him there is being allowed to go part time. He had a discussion with his line manager about working part time and was told that was not an option as only one person per team is permitted to work part time and there is already someone working part time on his team.

So he is about to file a formal flexible working request (we have DS1 < 5yrs old) but he is pretty sure it will be denied and the reason is that they do not want more than one person per team working part time.

My question is whether that is a legitimate reason to refuse a flexible working request?

Pragmatically though, even it it is not OK to have this blanket policy I expect that the actual refusal will probably be worded around one of the legitimate business reasons and even though we know that is not genuine my feeling is that it will be hard to argue against and demonstrate that the real reason was not acceptable. Any thoughts on this?

If he is refused I've suggested that he opt out of the opt out on the working time directive while he gets himself sorted out - are there any adverse consequences to him doing that - can this be grounds for breach of employment contract such that his employer could dismiss him for example?

Thank you

Ellypoo Mon 22-Aug-11 14:30:45

IME the company can decline a flexible working request if there is a genuine business reason for doing so - it sounds like there could be, particularly if his informal request has been turned down. Also, if it is company policy that not more than 1 person works part-time in any department, then surely that is fair enough and the policy that applies to everyone?

In terms of the opting out of the working time directive opt out, he has to notify his employer in writing, and there is likely to be a notice period (maximum 3 months) but I don't believe they can deny this or discriminate against him as a result of it - ie there shouldn't be any adverse consequences.

RibenaBerry Mon 22-Aug-11 14:51:49

Adverse consequences for opting out of the opt out are illegal - but notice of up to three months may be required (check on whatever he signed containing the opt out - it may be less).

In terms of the request, it is not legally permissible simply to have a blanket rule of one person. However, there may be underlying business reasons for that rule - e.g. that the only way shifts can work is if they have a total of X worker hours. In that case, there may be ways to address the business problem (e.g. a job share) that he could suggest and would then need to be considered (although job shares themselves can often be refused on grounds of additional cost).

My advice would be to think about exactly what he's asking for, what impact it will have on his work and his colleagues and how to reduce or remove that impact. For example, I would strongly suggest that he makes it clear he's not asking for the same non-working days as the other part time member of his team. Also, think about why they may have the rule. Common concerns with lots of people working part time are handover and having days when meetings, training etc can be arranged when everyone would be available.

SarahBumBarer Tue 23-Aug-11 13:20:43

Thank you.

That's what I thought Ribena but as I say pragmtically, proving that this is the real reason for their decision would probably be quite hard.

There is no handover required. He is in an account handler type role so he would simply be given less accounts and his role is not one where his "customers" would try to call another member of the team in his absence - it's not a situation where there are urgent issues which arise and must be dealt with that same day. Any excess accounts could be allocated around the entire region not just his team so to my husband's mind there seems to be little rationale for the one part-timer per team rule - it should be considered on a regional basis. Besides - there are always newbies with their hands out for extra accounts! It also would not matter if he was on the same no working day as his other team member but he is certainly willing to be flexible about his non-working day and make himself available for team meetings etc even on his non-working day and I guess it would look good to put all of that in his application.

The notification of the opt out is just a way to formally make the point that the hours they are expected to work are unreasonable. He would not do that until he had decided to leave anyway but obviously there is little point to doing that and then handing in your notice the next day if it is a 3 month transition period which I will need to check.

RibenaBerry Tue 23-Aug-11 14:47:42

Flexible working isn't meant to be about passing work onto other team members (although it often is in practice!), so I'd recommend stressing how work could be absorbed by new team members who are often actively seeking additional acccounts (i.e benefits all round), with more general reallocation just as a back up, if that helps...

I see what you mean about proving the reason, although if he gets to an appeal he could refer to the conversation with his manager (doing it at the application might just get their backs up). I'd personally take the statutory list of reasons for refusal and think about your answer to each one. That would make it harder to disguise the real reason, as you'd have headed off the other options in your application.

Good luck.

SarahBumBarer Thu 25-Aug-11 20:33:46

Thank you!

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