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Flexible working request refused - what next?! Advice please

(7 Posts)
mrsw1977 Fri 19-Aug-16 10:59:49

Apologies for the length of this post but feel it is important to give all the info!
I went off on maternity leave in October 2015 for 12 months (SMP only).
A new member of staff was recruited to cover my key accounts, with my smaller accounts being given to a junior member of the team. Due to the new business I had brought on board, the new team member would stay on when I came back to help ease the workload.
I went off on maternity leave feeling good about my return!
Fast forward to May 2016. I requested a meeting with my line manager to discuss my return and during this meeting I made known that I would like to explore options for returning 3 days per week. I was told this could be a challenge but we discussed options and he assured me that he really wanted me back on the team and would do all he could to support me.
Unbeknown to me, around this time he was promoted into a sales director role and was recruiting another member of staff for the team.
At the time I viewed this all as a positive, potentially allowing more flexibility for my return on a PT basis as we would have even more available resource.
I submitted my formal request for flexible working and asked for 4 days, 1 working from home. I was confident rear, given previous positive discussions and the increased resource within the team, that this would be approved without too much of a challenge. How wrong I was!
I was invited to a meeting to discuss in early August then 2 weeks later my line manager phoned to say he was being challenged by head office but would continue to fight for me & negotiate on my behalf. that call happened late on a Friday afternoon. The Monday was a public holiday and I received the outcome letter via HR at 10.30 on the Tuesday morning. Giving him around 2.5 hours of negotiating time!?
I am appealing the decision, they are stating the reasons as being impact on other team member and impact on customer demand. They gave not adequately quantified or justified this in my opinion.
I have an appeal meeting next week but I am now beginning to think they haven't wanted me back all along.
A few things have happened since I left, leaving me a bit suspicious:
-New full time member added to the team (now an all male team)
-Line manager promoted but the 1st I knew of this was when I saw his new job title in a newspaper article about the company.
-My name was given in a complaint / grievance between other members of staff and I was accused of speaking inappropriately about a manager who has since left the business). This was untrue.
-Following a c-section I received a formal letter stating the date by which I could drive my company car (the doctor has told me that would be his call, I was insured to drive once he had signed me fit).
-My boss giving me the (false?) impression that there was no rush and that they would accommodate my return.
-I was in the office for the meeting and I no longer have a desk, nor a place to sit. All my files had been boxed up and put in a meeting room.
-the person who took on my accounts described me as "his PA"
Am I suspicious to think they didn't want me back after all?
Once the appeal process has been exhausted, could I resign siting unfair/constructive dismissal? Is there grounds for indirect sex discrimination?
I am the only employee to return from maternity so there is nothing to compare to.
I gave spoken with acas & citizens advice but should I get help from an employment lawyer (money is a bit tight at present!)
Any advice much appreciated and apologies again for the lengthy post!

trinity0097 Fri 19-Aug-16 22:06:10

If you are on maternity leave then you can't expect them to keep a desk clear for you, so that point has no relevance at all!

Your line manager being promoted has nothing to do with you, so again no relevance at all.

Can't help with the rest of it, but as long as you return to a job that is equal in standing then that is what they have to do. They don't have to grant you flexible working. It's a right to be able to request it, not that it has to be granted.

Viviennemary Fri 19-Aug-16 22:18:38

It's all annoying. But I don't think they are obliged to agree to different working hours or conditions like one day working from home. But it was wrong of them to give you the impression that they would. I think it comes down to the question do you feel you have been demoted. If so then you might have a case. Otherwise I don't think you do.

From what you've written I don't think you have a case for discrimination. But you should seek advice from your Union if you are in one.

anotherdayanothersquabble Fri 19-Aug-16 22:38:24

Unfortunately, on the flexible working front, there is little you can do. There is no automatic right, the grounds for rejection are wide and vague and you can challenge them on process but not on the reasons.

However, you do have a right to return to a similar job that you left and you can challenge if this does not happen.

Good luck and sorry you didn't get the result you wanted.

Montysaurus Fri 19-Aug-16 23:00:20

I had a similar experience five years ago when I was considering returning from my first maternity leave. In retrospect, I think they were never going to agree to part time hours in my case, but had the meetings etc as that was what they were obliged to do. They gave me similar 'it might be a challenge' lines before the formal application but were generally positive and seemed to have a 'let's see what we can do' attitude. They had similar reasons for turning my request down (business reasons, pressure on team etc, and my boss had been promoted while I was off and had reshuffled the team so it was all a bit different to before I left). In retrospect, I realise they had to appear to be relatively positive and open to the application before I made it, as otherwise they might have been opening themselves up to accusations of not having properly considered my request. It was a blow at the time, and I ended up resigning rather than returning full time (still not sure if this was the right decision, but at the time it was the only one that seemed acceptable to me). I resented my boss a lot at the time (his wife had returned to work from maternity leave 3 days a week about six months before at a different company and I felt like he should have had solidarity or something...bit irrational of me).

Unfortunately I don't think what they've done is illegal in your case, but it's unfortunate that you got the impression it might all be ok (although there probably wasn't much else they could do). I doubt you'd have a claim for constructive dismissal, as presumably they would still have a role at a similar level for you, albeit full time. Good luck.

mrsw1977 Fri 19-Aug-16 23:31:12

Well thanks for your incredibly polite response!! I always wondered why mumsnet got a bad name.....

mrsw1977 Fri 19-Aug-16 23:34:58

Thanks to those of you who have given some constructive answers, much appreciated.

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