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FUCK. Flexi working rejected

(104 Posts)
Sleepybeanbump Wed 16-Nov-16 14:51:07

HUGELY long, sorry, but don't wan to drip feed.

Been on Mat leave since last December. Return date is 14 Dec this year or if I used all accrued leave 31 Jan 2017. I have previously said I would like to do the latter.
I told my line manager informally before I went on Mat leave that I envisaged returning 3 days a week. She was very supportive (obv I know this isn't binding, just giving background) and said she would do everything she could to make it happen.

Around May I had a call with my line manager and head of department for them to talk to me about pay review. I used the call to tell them that I had been investigating childcare and I still wanted to return 3 days a week and I would like to get discussions going as nursery places would be offered in August/September for a December start, and I would need to have my working arrangements firmed up by then. They went away to ask HR about the process and came back to say no can until October/November. I explained that I wouldn't be able to leave childcare arrangements at that late stage and they shrugged. Ok I said I'll just have to hedge my bets and do this in the dark.

I find a childminder I'm happy with who has 3 days available and I sign up with her. I'm also on nursery waiting lists for 5 days and have been since before baby was born.

Fast forward to October and I realise thanks to a friend that technically I need to give my notice to return by the end of the month. I email HR to remind them of this and ask if they're willing to open discussion. They send me the flexible working form. I ask them what I do about giving notice given we haven't agreed my conditions and they say it doesn't matter about giving notice in time.

I fill in the form on a 3 day a week basis (the form only allows one option) but while filling it in informally run some other ideas of out of hours working past my manager which get shot down immediately. So the form gets submitted on a 3 day a week basis with my hours changing from 9.30-5.30 to 9-5, and a request for at least one day from home. After informal discussion with my manager to check what has changed/not changed in the last year re workload I suggest that a job share would be a good way of mitigating impact.

First week of Nov I'm invited in for a meeting to discuss the form. We have a very productive and rambling conversation with is less about the form and more a discussion from scratch about my situation, wants, needs, ideals, and theirs, and some brainstorming of different options. What comes out of the meeting is that there are various options. All seems promising. Atmosphere very friendly.

Yesterday I had a call. Every single option we discussed a non starter. My request rejected. Best offer is 5 full days one from home (no mention of exact hours, I realise this morning so will have to clarify that.) I'm given til next week to go away and reflect.

Now the dust has settled I have a number of concerns:
-Is there any legality around the length of time I have to make my decision? They've just scheduled a call for Monday (and they have made it very clear they expect me to resign then.)
They haven't mentioned giving me the rejection in writing or mentioned appeal process. Can they make me give my answer without giving me that info? Online reading suggests that's best practice but not required.
-What's my situation re giving notice to quit? When's the latest I have to do it? Can I refuse to say either way on Monday?

Can't find these answers on ACAS etc.

I also realised this morning once the shock had worn off they hadn't mentioned the specific hours I would need to work ie if a) they would accept the 9-5 request for 5 days , or b) if there's room for further flexibility ie different hours on different days so can share pick up and drop off with husband (I haven't asked for clarification yet, want to gather self before communicating with them).

There's no way at this stage I can make 5 days a week work as we're so close to my return date. (Exactly why I wanted to discuss it earlier!) My husband would need to submit his own flexible work request on this basis, and I'd have to start from scratch re childcare. While I was filling in the form we were refused one nursery place and have just been told we've been refused another as the waiting list still too long.

To work out whether 5 days is even vaguely viable my husband will need to make a new flexi working request himself (he already does some). We couldn't do this until now as no idea what we might need to ask for. But because they've left this so late we don't have enough time really to get anything else in place. Ditto arranging childcare and settling in- I'd need a nanny share (all we can afford) in place and read to actually start by New Year. Vanishingly unlikely now. Again- couldn't recruit for that before until we had the answer! So feel in an impossible situation. And I CERTAINLY can't establish whether all this is viable or not by next Monday!

Also to make the 5 days work I would need flexi hours, different on different days to share pick up and drop off with husband. That would mean a new request and online reading suggests only one allowed in 12 months!!!??? Additionally if I have to work 5 days I will want to keep my accrued leave to use later so would actually want to go back in December!

I've had max 4 hours sleep for weeks, been ill on and off for a month and just totally reeling from the shock of this. Was so sure something would work out and now they're acting like it's just done and dusted. Manager was all 'oh do keep the door open, hopefully we can work together in the future, you'll be the first person I call if something comes up' and I haven't even quit yet! It's like they just want this over ASAP so they can get on and find some nice easy (dare I say childless) replacement. We've been very close for 8 years (genuine friends) so massively weird. I was at her wedding, she cried with happiness when I told her I was pregnant. Two weeks ago ago she was hugging me and telling me repeatedly how much she missed me. Now she doesn't seem to care much which makes a bad situation even worse.

Any advice appreciated. Annoyingly there's a chance if I do quit that contract work will come my way from them next year so I need to be nice. Otherwise I'd just tell them to stick their bloody job up up their arses. I'm certain I will end up having to quit (fundamentally I don't want to be away from DS that long anyway) but so uncertain what to do now and feel like they just haven't played this fair. The irony is its a massive law firm who started this whole 'we're so committed to flexi working' campaign last year!

Finally as best as I can remember from the phone call the reasons for rejecting everything are:
-Part time rejected as job is full time (how does anyone ever get it approved by that argument ?!)
-Home working not offered as much as I wanted- no reason given. In meeting head of department made disgruntled noises about needing to be client focussed. She works 4 days a week 2 from home ffs!!
-Job share rejected because it will be too hard to find someone (how much do they have to try?), plus something about there being no hand over day presumably because they'd only be willing to pay for a job share for 2 days not 3, and lots of waffle about loss of knowledge in handover process and the work not being suitable even though for years colleagues and I have often shared pieces of work very effectively (I've told them this).
-Change to start and finish hours- not addressed.

Sorry again for length. Don't want to drip feed. Thanks to anyone who reads.

daisychain01 Wed 16-Nov-16 16:26:29

Does you company have a flexible working policy documents? Can you use their policy as a starting point for not to try and create some compromise to meet your needs.

Also could you put forward a summary proposal based on a trial period of 3-6 months. Try to show compromise to meet them half way?

Just trying to identify a way of getting the discussion back on track.

daisychain01 Wed 16-Nov-16 16:27:22

Starting point to try....

Sorry about the errant "not"

Sleepybeanbump Wed 16-Nov-16 17:15:21

I've requested the policy today (no access to anything).

I've wondered about the trial thing but thing is they're right about it being a full time role/ that's why I suggested job share. So if they're unwilling to explore they difficult to do anything on a trial basis....without offering something utterly bonkers like 5 days compressed into 4 which would just kill me (the workload was such that I never left on time anyway so just getting away at 5 would be enough of a challenge without compressed hours).

puglife15 Thu 17-Nov-16 04:33:10

Do you want to go back?

Can you afford not to work at least temporarily?

Who have they replaced you with while you've been off?

Sounds like they want you gone for whatever reason...

Maybe agree to use your accrued leave to take your days down to 3 until you find childcare... If you have say 30 days (you accrue bank hols as well) that will buy you 15 weeks.

Gingernaut Thu 17-Nov-16 04:36:18

You have the right to ask for flexi working, there's no automatic right for it to be granted.

OlennasWimple Thu 17-Nov-16 05:08:53

I understand your frustration at not being able to resolve this sooner, but TBH I can't think of many roles that can go from being full time to two days a week in the office / one day a week at home without any impact on the business, so I'm not surprised that they have refused the request.

5to2 Thu 17-Nov-16 05:20:18

It is a massive change for them, 5 days to 3. They are being very inflexible though and it sounds like they'd rather you quit than offer any slight accommodation. Most jobs could be done with job share and there are clear financial benefits to employing motivated, happy and focussed part time staff.

But this is why women quit good jobs and take low paid pt roles, businesses lose good, talented people, why in some organisations there are hardly any women aged over 35 and why workers in this country are so unproductive. It makes me very cross, but I'm not sure there is much you can do in this instance.

5to2 Thu 17-Nov-16 05:23:16

I'm not surprised to hear its a law firm though. They are some of the worst culprits.

5to2 Thu 17-Nov-16 05:30:40

Having said that, a lot of firms will accommodate 4 days a week but not 3. Most clients can manage without you being there for a single day!

You have to be very canny about keeping the day free though.

DoctorGilbertson Thu 17-Nov-16 05:48:39

Could you take your accrued leave at 2 days a week for the first 3 months giving yourself a bit more time to find a solution?

Hamiltoes Thu 17-Nov-16 06:00:13

Could you request a phased return? You could take the 3 days childcare available and use that time to keep trying for other arrangements?

TooStressyForMyOwnGood Thu 17-Nov-16 06:12:54

That is really stressful flowers. Are you in a union? If so they may be able to give you some advice. The government websites and CAB have some good advice on their websites and it might be worth ringing the ACAS helpline. Unfortunately as has been said, lots of the advice is about best practice rather than something employers are obliged to do. If they can provide a business reason why you cannot have the flexible working then they are not obliged to grant any request. Good advice about annual leave above too. Definitely get hold of the policy - it was the first thing my union told me to do.

I really came on to say that if you do end up feeling you have to quit, be sure to heck whether you would have to pay back any maternity pay (e.g. in my organisation I would have to work for at least 3 months or return the money so I would somehow make it work for those 3 months then quit if you see what I mean).

Am not an expert on this but have managed to renegotiate hours slightly without direct managerial support but with union support myself. Your firm sounds a lot less flexible though in your case sad.

SerendipityPhenomenon Thu 17-Nov-16 06:38:25

I understand your frustration at not being able to resolve this sooner, but TBH I can't think of many roles that can go from being full time to two days a week in the office / one day a week at home without any impact on the business

I can't think of many roles in big law firms that can't be job shared. I agree with 5to2, for some reason law firms are the worst culprits for thinking employment law doesn't apply to them.

Sorry I don't have anything very constructive to suggest, but you might like to post on the Legal board for specific advice.

PlumsGalore Thu 17-Nov-16 06:44:03

My company, a massive corporate, has done job share since about 1992, but it is up to you to find your partner and agree the hourly split. Always has been.

Fortunately in a company this size it isn't impossible though it has meant such a compromise that one person has had to entirely change roles or move office bases.

We have also had flexitime since before I started in the 80s and homeworking since 1999. I know it isn't as easy for small companies but I am shocked that there are still so many inflexible employers afraid of change yet they expect up retain the best people and for them to be adaptable and constantly open to change and development in the workplace.

BikeRunSki Thu 17-Nov-16 06:48:13

Can you identify anyone in the firm you could potentially jobshare with?

When I jobshared, I found someone to jobshare with and we I resented our case together. And we had a handover day (Wednesday) but certainly did 6 days worth of work between us.

Dozer Thu 17-Nov-16 06:50:05

FIrst they can't put you under pressure to resign, and I would email them to put any statements of theirs on that "on the record".

I would propose 4 days, or (if they remain inflexible) return to work FT and continue to seek flexibility, find a jobshare, or PT work there or elsewhere. Childcare can be found, eg CM. I personally wouldn't take the huge economic risks of resigning.

FairyPenguin Thu 17-Nov-16 06:50:06

I went through a very similar situation when I went back to work. I made my plans very clear, submitted my form in good time, chased repeatedly via email for updates, got lots of verbal reassurances from my line manager not to worry, etc. I got to work on my first day, having left my baby for the first time, to find out they were expecting me to work full-time. They had never written to confirm anything despite me chasing and them verbally muttering it would be ok.

I took 2 days of annual leave a week while I threw everything I could think of at it, including advertising for a job share partner, asking the nursery for any available extra days if a child called in sick/cancelled, applied for other jobs, etc. In the meantime I consulted the union - I wasn't a member but they gave some verbal advice.

I wrote a complaint to HR and my line manager, detailing all the actions I had taken especially the fact that I'd tried to get this sorted out in good time but they put me off, and all the verbal reassurances I'd got, that they never wrote back, always called me back so that I had no evidence. I also detailed how it was impossible for me to find childcare now as I'd told them I needed to get it sorted so they were unreasonable to expect me to be able to work full time immediately.

I then requested a copy of the grievance policy, and who to raise a grievance with.

After a stressful few weeks, one day my line manager came up to me and said I could have my 3 days a week working, acted all nice, and didn't give any reason.

I stayed in that job for another 3 years (including another lot of maternity leave) but I was glad to leave there in the end.

Good luck and I hope you manage to sort it out. I hope at least something in my story helps - I've logged on for the first time in years to post this!

FairyPenguin Thu 17-Nov-16 06:57:08

PS In my complaint e-mail, I documented all the times I'd chased them and when they'd called me, even if I didn't remember the exact date. The ballpark date is enough to show how many times you tried to get this sorted, and also how far in advance you'd been trying. I think my putting it all into writing plus trying to raise a grievance was what finally swung it for me.

MillieMoodle Thu 17-Nov-16 06:57:42

I haven't got any advice for you I'm afraid but I knew before you even said it that it's a law firm. They are the worst for thinking the rules don't apply to them. I hope you manage to get it sorted flowers

OnionKnight Thu 17-Nov-16 07:57:51

They are the worst for thinking the rules don't apply to them.

I'm sorry but what rules? Flexible working isn't an automatic right.

5to2 Thu 17-Nov-16 08:20:49

I think Fairy's advice is very good, and also the advice about trying to find a job share person (someone already there who would also like to reduce their hours) and presenting a case together for it. I've been a client of, as well as worked for large law firms and as a client I'd love to have two people looking after my matter, as long as they worked together well! As someone else said solicitors work collaboratively all the time. I think what anyone has to do, requesting a change in their working arrangements, is to make a business case for it, rather than as a convenience to you. Present what's in it for them, basically.

Sleepybeanbump Thu 17-Nov-16 08:24:17

Thanks for all the replies. Will try to reply to everyone's points:

Do you want to go back?
Yes. Well, I did. And I don't want to leave DS 5 days a week. But I really like my job, and am good at it. It suits me perfectly, I've spent 8 years growing a really good reputation and don't want to throw that away. Funnily enough aside from this very weird episode I LOVE my team including my boss and big boss and they have always been incredibly loyal and supportive.

Can you afford not to work at least temporarily?
Short term it makes no difference as pretty much my entire salary would go on childcare (with a nanny share I'd work at a loss). However I very much wanted to keep my earning potential as highly doubt my employability in a few years time. Particularly ability to find anything part time/school friendly hours. I spoke to a specialist recruitment consultant for my field before I left and she confirmed that very few if any part time roles are ever actively recruited.

Who have they replaced you with while you've been off?
A maternity contract cover who was loathed to start with and still not popular or very well thought of although she sounds like she's now ok at churning the work out. My manager was openly criticising her to me when we met.

Sounds like they want you gone for whatever reason...
It does doesn't it. Which is weirder than weird. There's two of us in identical roles...when the other person left they failed several times to find a suitable replacement, had two disasters and took nearly 18m to find a decent replacement. When I left I had a fantastic appraisal, my boss was always adamant she was desperate to have me back whatever she could do. It's so so so weird. But it feels like now they've made their mind up they just want the case closed ASAP so they can move on.

Sleepybeanbump Thu 17-Nov-16 08:29:18

A few people have suggested using holiday for a phased return. Make I'm being precious but my son is going through the most absolutely terrible terrible separation anxiety at the moment (waking aaaall night screaming, crying if I even turn my back on him during the day and walk to other side of the room). He's not used to be left as I have no family who've ever been able to take him and he's never taken bottles. So I expect the early days of childcare to be very challenging having seen even what friends with much more laid back babies have been through. I really really really don't want- for his sake and my sanity- to settle him in with childminder for a few months and then have to start all over again with something else. I don't think that's fair on him. Also on principle I don't think me and him should have to do that when I've been telling them since May that I needed to get it sorted.

BusStopBetty Thu 17-Nov-16 08:36:01

I hope you can sort something. Don't forget you and your partner can take parental leave if you need a bit more time to find childcare.

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