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Can they make me work more days than I want?

(22 Posts)
jumpjockey Wed 05-Aug-09 20:05:36

I'm currently on ML, due to go back in December and want to do 2 days a week for the first year as part of a graduated return scheme, then back to full time at the end of the year. My HoD was happy with this and they're trying to get permission from the institution's HR dept (a uni) to fill the other 3 days of the week.

It's been up in the air since June and they still haven't got permission and don't know when they will. Obviously I need to know asap so I can get childcare sorted, and that depends on which days of the week I'll be working. HoD said today that if they don't get permission to fill the other 3 days, she wants me to work 3 days rather than 2. (because I'm so indispensable wink!)

Can they make me do this? The way I see it, I have the right to work 2 days a week (according to the graduated return policy). It's not my problem if the uni won't fund the other 3 days. Obviously it would be best if it would work out, but surely the dept can't expect me to work more days than I'm happy with just because the uni is trying to save money? It's pretty daft as if I went back full time they would have the cash to pay for 5 days, they're just so strapped at the mo that they're trying to save pennies wherever they can.

Anyway - can they make me work 3 days when I applied to do 2?

trixymalixy Wed 05-Aug-09 20:12:07

Yes, you can request flexible working and your employer must consider it, but you don't have a right to ti.

They do have to give a specific business reason for denying your request, and not being able to recruit to cover the days is a suitabe reason I'm afraid.

georgimama Wed 05-Aug-09 20:15:13

What trixy said. You don't have a right to work 2 days a week.

bluebump Wed 05-Aug-09 20:16:38

Yes as far as I know they can make you work it or you can resign.

I am currently on ML and returning back to work in 2 weeks (eek, sob!) and I wanted to work 2 days a week and my work mate who is on maternity leave wanted to do 3. As they had already approached us about job share we assumed this would be ok but no, they want us both in every day, one doing mornings and one doing afternoons. No amount of begging solutions and suggestions to change this would get them to change their mind, we were told accept it or leave!

I may be wrong though!

RedLollyYellowLolly Wed 05-Aug-09 20:18:44

But I don't think JJ is relying on flexible working rights here? Rather the uni's graduated return scheme?

JJ - what does the return scheme state? Is is a right or a right to request/according to business needs blah blah..... (if the latter I'd suggest, yes, they can "make" you work more days - or at least not let you come back to less).

jumpjockey Wed 05-Aug-09 21:24:05

Looking at it again, the wording has changed since I applied a couple of months ago - it now says the following - the bit between * wasn't there before. It's also changed that previously it didn't imply that you need to increase your hours across the year - how on earth do they expect to employ temporary cover for a number of hours that decreases across a year? Isn't that making things pretty much impossible for themselves and thus anyone applying for the scheme?

"A member of staff returning from maternity or adoption leave can request to return to work on a graduated basis, provided that their institution can make arrangements to cover their duties at no extra cost to the University. *Any agreement to a change in working arrangements will be considered on the basis of the operational requirements of the department*. If a member of staff wishes to discuss any change in their working arrangements on return to work, they must contact their Head of Department or Departmental Administrator at the earliest opportunity and, where possible, not later than eight weeks before they return to work.

A graduated return allows a member of staff to return to work following maternity or adoption leave initially for a minimum 20% of full-time. It is expected that the member of staff will then increase their hours over the following 12 months, e.g. rising to 50 per cent or more within 6 months and be back to full-time within 12 months following their initial date of return."

jumpjockey Wed 05-Aug-09 21:25:58

Sorry posted too early - what's also a real pain in the proverbial is that I asked about this nearly 2 months ago and they've still not made any decision - the longer they leave it the harder it will be for me to get childcare and thus to actually go back the number of days they want.

elkiedee Wed 05-Aug-09 21:34:15

Difficult as you're relying on policy rather than law. Are you a union member? Have the changes in the policy been agreed by the unions? Do you have a written copy of the old policy from when you applied two months ago? They seem like quite fundamental changes to be just written into a document like that.

jumpjockey Wed 05-Aug-09 21:58:55

I'm not in a union unfortunately. The copy of the policy that I had is in the baby's room (!) so will have a look in the morning.

My HoD is also pretty fed up that the uni is taking such an age to decide about this. hmm

muddleduck Thu 06-Aug-09 09:31:58

Hi.
I would write a formal letter to your HoD copied to HR reminding them of what you have asked for and reminding them of how long you have waited for a decision. Also remind them of how difficult it can be to arrange appropriate childcare and give some indication of when you need to know in order to arrange this. It is likely that there is no good reason that the decision has not being made, more likely that it has just gone to the bottom of the pile and is being considered non-urgent. IME unis are pretty good about doing the best thing for their staff, but they do need prodding smile.

Also I'd strongly advise (at some point) getting in writing some agreement about your working days. IME unis are very bad at assuming that part-time staff can be very flexible and work whenever they happen to have teaching scheduled.

flowerybeanbag Thu 06-Aug-09 09:47:06

I think the first sentence is actually the key bit.

'A member of staff returning from maternity or adoption leave can request to return to work on a graduated basis, provided that their institution can make arrangements to cover their duties at no extra cost to the University'

Isn't your boss saying you might need to do 3 days if they can't cover the rest? I know you are saying the fact that they don't want to pay for 3 days 'isn't your problem', but recruiting another member of staff does cost more than just keeping one person on 5 days, so there is additional cost involved. Presumably they feel they can cover your duties without extra recruitment and other associated employment costs if you work 3 days but will not be able to do so if you only do 2 days.

What isn't reasonable is the length of time it's taking to get a decision, I agree.

muddleduck Thu 06-Aug-09 09:54:02

ps FWIW I went back to my uni 2 days a week and found it completely unworkable. I changed up to 3 days a week very quickly which worked a lot better.

jumpjockey Thu 06-Aug-09 10:11:47

flowery - I appreciate that, but how is it possible to ever fill the rest of someone's duties then? I'm close to the top of my grade, they would presumably fill the other days at the bottom thus saving some pennies that way.

The longer they take, the less likely I am to be able to arrange childcare and thus the more likely I've have to jack in the whole thing and then they'll have to find someone full time angry

Sorry - just really fed up at the fact I went in and discussed this with my boss when dd was 4 months old, submitted my application 2 months later and they've been sitting on it for so long and only now start saying they may insist I do something different.

muddleduck Thu 06-Aug-09 10:18:23

What are your childcare plans?
I think you need to create some urgency here by telling them the notice that you need to give the nursery etc and that it would be impossible to arrange childcare after this time.
Do you have anything in writing that suggests that 2 days a week would be ok?

jumpjockey Thu 06-Aug-09 10:36:24

muddleduck - nursery! [hollow laugh] all the ones we've tried so far (that's all the ones reasonably close to home, DH's work or my work that have a vaguely decent reputation) have no places til next September. I can't start proper enquiries with childminders til we know which days it would be.

Initially I said we'd like me to work Weds and Thurs as this fits best with DH's rota and late evening working. They left it a month then said No, you'd have to work the start or end of the week as it would be impossible for them to fill a split 3 day shift. (never mind that several of the people in the dept work this sort of pattern...) So we agreed to Thurs and Fri. Now they're saying if they can't fill the other days it would be more flexible as to which days I'd work, but they can't yet confirm if I'll be supposedly having to do two or three, so I can't start asking childcare anyway.

I don't have anything in writing, it was all done in meetings or by phone. Just some emails saying "please let us know what you'd like to do and we'll look into it" before we submitted the application. I guess the fact we didn't hear anything from them for a month made us think it was ok...

muddleduck Thu 06-Aug-09 10:43:34

sorry jj didn't mean to hit a nerve grin.

in this case you must write to them NOW explaining that it is essential that you arrange childcare immediately and that you cannot do this until your days have been confirmed. Perhaps mention how disappointed you would be if you are unable to return to work because of appropriate childcare.

BTW I would go ahead and speak to childminders ASAP even if you are not 100% sure of your days. The best ones get booked up well in advance. As long as you know the days before you have a contract it should be ok. Also, they may only have availability on certain days so it might be helpful to know this before you agree anything with work.

Where in the country are you?

jumpjockey Thu 06-Aug-09 10:52:03

We're in Cambridge. The situation is like this - one of the nurseries we tried that has 24 spaces in the baby room had 22 sibling applications, meaning only 2 people off the waiting list were in with a chance. Most of them seem to be in the same situation, we've been on waiting lists for months but they all say next September.

I'm awaiting a phone call from my HoD at the moment, so will see what she says and will definitely try to get them to shift things on. the HR lady is (shhh) a bit of a PITA, i leave her messages all the time and she very rarely calls back, last Monday she said she'd call on Friday even if there was no progress just to keep me updated, but not a sausage.

We're ending up that we;ll probably have to go with whatever childminder can fit us in, rather than someone we necessarily like or feel would be right for dd, just so I can get back to work.

jumpjockey Thu 06-Aug-09 10:54:24

Sorry - am sounding so massively negative about this! Don't mean to sound ungrateful for the advice.

muddleduck Thu 06-Aug-09 11:10:18

you're not sounding ungrateful, just stressed smile

We are also near Cambridge and fwiw several of my friends have found nursery places in cambridge at relatively short notice. Lots of people will be on multiple waiting lists IYKWIM. Worth re-phoning them to see if there is any movement on the lists.

Definitely start looking around though. And post on the Childminders board here, I'm pretty certain there are some Cambridge people over there.

flowerybeanbag Thu 06-Aug-09 14:20:54

jj in answer to your question about how duties are ever filled, you are right that often it is difficult to do that on a completely cost-neutral basis. If your employer when operating this 'gradual return' policy would normally just recruit someone else on either a temporary or permanent basis to cover the shortfall, then this is likely to be costing them more than retaining the original person full time, so not cost-neutral.

Putting the sentence in the policy about cost-neutrality gives them the option of saying no should finances be tight, which they clearly are now, but doesn't preclude them deciding to take a hit cost-wise if they want to.

Also depending on the job and how much will be 'missing', it can sometimes be covered by adjusting ways of working, rejigging duties of others, or other less costly methods.

When people make a flexible working request under the legislation (as opposed to the policy you've got where you are), part of a successful request will be identifying how the arrangement the employee wants can be accommodated without negative impact on the employer, so employees making successful requests under the legislation will have to have thought creatively about how their job can be done in less hours, or what duties can be adjusted/different methods used to accommodate what they want.

Because of the policy your employer has, and presumably your own knowledge of what has happened previously, there has not been any onus on you to do that. All you've had to do is say how many days you want and leave the practicalities and logistics up to them as nothing to do with you. I'm not criticising you for that in any way, just saying that this is unusual, and the extent to which a request will work in a cost-effective and beneficial way for the employer is usually very much a burden placed on the employee if they want their request to be accommodated. Similarly a huge percentage of requests made end up being compromised in one way or another.

I totally agree that how your request is being handled is completely unacceptable though, and don't blame you for getting very frustrated indeed.

jumpjockey Thu 06-Aug-09 14:44:03

stil nothing from HoD...

flowery, I see what you're saying. The reason we went for two days was that the parts of my job that nobody else does take up 2 days (we had a very comprehensive job analysis in the last year) so the idea was we'd guarantee those tasks would get done, and the rest would be either done by the other person, or shared by the rest of the department.

sorry wriggly baby will finish up later

jumpjockey Thu 06-Aug-09 16:05:56

... anyway!

the people I know who've done graduated return in the past haven't had to do the justifying - not in the same way as a flexible working request like you say. It's just because at the moment they're so very short of money that they're thinking of leaving part of the job unfilled.

They're always a bit dismal about this sort of thing, a guy in my dept retired - so not exactly something that took them by surprise - and it took 3 months before they even advertised for a replacement and another 3 before the replacement started. He was a very senior member of the dept and during that time his work had to be shared out between the rest of us - great for the cv, but doing work we hadn't got the experience for.

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