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is this worth fighting over? Flexible working dilemma.

(25 Posts)
jamsandwich Tue 23-Aug-11 22:08:14

I've been off work for two years and am currently wrangling over my return - I've requested working just 7 hours per week. This is due to caring in addition to parenting responsibilities. I know, it's a bit cheeky, but I put a lot of thought into how it could work and benefit my employer blah blah. And I have seen it work with similar posts in other teams (NHS professionally qualified, specialist service provision).

Anyway, they've said no. I was on 21 hours, the boss says he could only ever go down to half time which is about 19 hours, thus a reduction of just 2! So what I'm wondering is whether he can use this reason? He doesn't seem to have considered my particular post or my ideas for it, just this blanket "I never agree to less than half-time working" i.e. for anyone of any professional/ unqualified background throughout the whole service (about 80 WTE I guess). His justification is that we are a small service. I suggested a job share - he hasn't addressed that at all. Isn't this just blatant indirect discrimination?

Do I let it go, resign, wave goodbye to my career. Or should I go back to him saying this isn't valid?! I know it might still be a "no", but he could at least show he has considered it properly.

Any thoughts welcome.

allnewtaketwo Tue 23-Aug-11 22:10:48

To be honest I find it difficult to understand how anyone could have a job doing 7 hours per week

WipsGlitter Tue 23-Aug-11 22:12:27

I dont know what you do, but I really cannot imagine what you will be able to do/contribute in one day. Will loads of meetings have to be rearranged to suit you? But I don't know the legal side of it. I do think they have to have a formal meeting and give you proper reasons for why it is turned down.

allnewtaketwo Tue 23-Aug-11 22:15:10

I'm in a professional job and tbh when anyone works less than 4 days per week it makes things pretty difficult organising stuff around their limited diary. Could you even offer 2 days, or 3 short days?

springboksaplenty Tue 23-Aug-11 22:15:22

Without knowing what exactly you do, I have no idea whether 7 hrs is feasible. I too am in the NHS but am struggling to think of any job that could be usefully done within 7 hrs per week. It's not even a full day. A job share may be more feasible but I thinkyou need to provide more info (perhaps more than you are willing to give on an open forum): are you involved in direct pt care? Single episodes or with f/u? Who would provide cover? How continuity of care be maintained etc

Trifle Tue 23-Aug-11 22:15:48

A job share? What, all doing 7 hours per week.

Why have you been off work for 2 years? Was that paid or unpaid. If paid, it sounds like you're taking the piss.

Working 7 hours per week is hardly a 'career'. It's more of a hobby.

jamsandwich Tue 23-Aug-11 22:19:57

fair comments - I know 7 hours sounds a bit extreme, but it can work, honest!
No need for meetings beyond prof supervision, which I offered to do in my own time. Main role is training and/ or seeing caseload of service users in their own homes - I would just reduce tasks proportionally and job sharer would have the rest.

Sofabitch Tue 23-Aug-11 22:20:39

I went back 7 hours to a job before. But it did drive me nuts and I soon increased my hours. I think that in this climate where NHS jobs are being cut it would be dangerous to push for such a low amount of hours.

springboksaplenty Tue 23-Aug-11 22:21:51

Oh did you mean a Jobshare and you still only do seven hrs? For some reason I thought you meant like a proper Jobshare. Would a phased return to work perhaps help?

springboksaplenty Tue 23-Aug-11 22:25:29

I just can't see it working and I think that you would be hard pressed to make a case for it. I can't see other managers agreeing that it is feasible and as others have said once you go to two days it is incredibly difficult for other members if your team. And from your point view people on the lower hours often end up having to do work outside of paid time and hence actually earn less per hour than if they increased their hrs.

Trifle Tue 23-Aug-11 22:28:02

So, the job share would entail you working 7 hours per week and the other person working 32. Hmm, I can see it working, NOT. The word 'share' doesnt really come into it does it.

jamsandwich Tue 23-Aug-11 22:29:24

Ah, Trifle, a bit less fair. All unpaid - why assume I'm taking the piss? Are you my boss?!
Hardly a hobby - NHS not renowned for being a relaxing diversion. Are you familiar with the concept of women (it's almost always us) reducing their hours to deal with family crises in the hope of later returning more fully to work? The state has invested heavily in my training - don't I have a duty to use and maintain my skills? You have a worryingly patronising attitude.

Portofino Tue 23-Aug-11 22:34:17

Well you wanting to work 7 hours and them not going for it, doesn't scream discrimiation to me, I must say. This is WORK after all. I am a big proponent for flexible working - that you can do a job in 3 days vs 5, or do 5 short days etc. This sounds well a bit, piss takey....

jamsandwich Tue 23-Aug-11 22:46:30

I'm not asking to reduce my hours from 37.5 to 7 - Trifle and others, did you read the OP? The job is only 21 hours anyway, so it would be me 1 day, job sharer two days. Our service already has some other staff doing 2 days pw - I've genuinely never heard anyone moaning about this. I've worked in other teams with colleagues doing 7 hours - they either have had their own distinct cases like I'm proposing.

In the whole two years I've been off, they didn't bother to recruit any cover - the post just stood vacant and they pocketed the saving. I think it may just be that they've decided it is not a priority any longer and they want to delete the post anyway. But I was hoping for some helpful suggestions about people's experiences applying for flexible working, the reasons they were given, whether they appealed etc. Also, whether a manager can give a blanket reason like the one I've been given.

I'm not asking MN for permission to work 7 hours you know confused

jamsandwich Tue 23-Aug-11 22:49:40

oops, distracted by dd...
I've worked in other teams with colleagues doing 7 hours - they either have had their own distinct cases like I'm proposing, or are responsible for a specific project and you make a note in your diary to liaise with them when they are there. Not a biggie.

Grevling Tue 23-Aug-11 23:07:31

I'd say its not going to work and that is a valid business reason for denying it. Remember they have to consider it - not agree to it and it's not discrimination (why do people use that phrase so much!) if you can find a male, non parent working a 7 hour week that changed from a 3 day week I'll agree. But as you can't its not discrimination if it applies to everybody.

You'd spend a good proportion of that 7 hours catching up on what happened on the other 2 days. I can't see any way this would benefit your employer to have someone doing 1 day a week.

" Main role is training and/ or seeing caseload of service users in their own homes "

One of the problems is that if you do 1 day and you want to keep consistency then people are going have have to see you on that day. If you job shares 2 or 3 days then people would at least have a chance to meet you on an alternate day. With one day then it could be weeks before you're available so you could end up seeing you one week and your job sharer the week after then you the following etc.

Would it not be better to find another role that is only 7 hours a week?

jamsandwich Wed 24-Aug-11 00:23:33

Thanks Grevling, thoughtful post. The indirect discrimination thing is interesting. I don't mean to suggest that my request being refused means they're being discriminatory. Rather, that having a seemingly arbitrary rule of never allowing less than half time hours will disproportionately affect women - as women tend to be the main carers within families. So I'm questioning whether this rule is indirectly discriminatory. And citing this rule stops my manager actually engaging with the ideas in my application. And btw, the "rule" is my boss's own, made-up thing that I've not heard him mention before and which is not something mentioned in any NHS flexible working policy.

allnewtaketwo Wed 24-Aug-11 07:36:13

OP in most jobshares I'm familiar with, the jobsharers overlap by a day to ensure they work together effectively with no disruption to the employer. This wouldn't be possible if you just work 7 hours.

Also you seem to be suggesting that the reduction from 21 to 7 hours is not significant. But it's a reduction of two thirds. As a professional, there's no way I could do my job in 11.5 hours a week, which would be me taking a similar % reduction to what you're proposing.

Also there are a lot of fixed costs with having an employee, regardless of how many hours they work. Having three people working 7 hours each is very much more expensive than having one person working 21 hours.

I think part of the problem is that you seem to think they 'owe' you the courtesy of letting you take this reduction. In most places of work, this is simply not feasible.

You have been offered a lot of advice on here but unfortunately I think you seem insistent that your employer should just agree with you.

matana Wed 24-Aug-11 10:02:26

OP, i work in the public sector too and tbh if i submitted an application to work 7 hours they'd probably just question whether they needed me at all, what with the current cuts to services etc. Be careful - you could be talking yourself out of a job if you fight it.

jamsandwich Wed 24-Aug-11 11:32:29

allnewtaketwo you have got me wrong. I have absolutely no expectation that my employer "owes" me anything, in my OP I acknowledged that it's a bit cheeky to ask for 7 hours - clearly I know there are lots of reasons why it is hardly ideal for an employer.

But equally, I wrote a very reasoned and evidenced application and my employer has not addressed this at all, coming up instead with a new "rule" that no one can ever work less than 19 hours. What I'm asking about is whether this rule in itself constitutes a valid business reason for refusing my request. It just seems a bit knee-jerk and lazy to me. I'm grateful to the few posters who have addressed this.

Several posters seem affronted that I can even have the gall to ask for such a thing - well, we all have a right to request reduced hours and my view was that if I handed in my notice without even asking for 7 hours then I might miss a chance to maintain my working role. I've been in my field for 15 years, it is very specialised so there are not many of us in the country, so some employers would be prepared to get creative and look into ways to retain me.

I think matana is sadly on the button.

allnewtaketwo Wed 24-Aug-11 12:37:03

I think the '19 hours' rule is pretty reasonable actually. And I imagine they won't find it too difficult to defend on business reasons.

If you're much in demand then surely you will be able to get what yout want elsewhere?

minipie Wed 24-Aug-11 18:07:41

I agree his reaction sounds a bit arbitrary - but I'm sure if he had to, he could come up with some very valid reasons why less than 19 hours would never work, to justify having such a "rule"

- gives service users no flexibility over days to meet
- jobshare would mean no continuity for service users
- you'd spend most of your time catching up
- no time for handover/overlap with job sharer
- you wouldn't gain and maintain enough professional experience in only 7hrs a week

etc. It's true that he ought to spell out the rationales to you, but I don't think he'll find it tricky to do so I'm afraid.

And if they've had no-one doing your job for 2 years, that does rather suggest they have learned to manage without you - which doesn't really help your bargaining position.

LaCiccolina Wed 24-Aug-11 21:23:35

Why isn't he making the post redundant? Hoping u will resign? Don't forget that if he denies it u can appeal it. Then if no luck you would have to accept the terms or resign. No other alternative. You can possibly fight but frankly is it worth the time, energy and stress?

Maybe the cosmos is suggesting another route might be best....?

wonkylegs Wed 24-Aug-11 21:45:45

As others have said I don't see how you could actually do your role properly even as a job share at such a reduced rate as catching up/ reacting to things that happen or even just handing over would take up so much of that time.
I am a highly specialised professional (private sector) and I actually found on returning to work my hours increased as everyone suddenly remembered what I could do that they couldn't. 37.5hrs is wishful thinking so I can't even imagine 7 envy

jamsandwich Thu 25-Aug-11 00:21:31

Thanks for replies. minipie I think you're right that he can find more valid business reasons; I think maybe I feel put out that I put so much effort into the application and he hasn't bothered to address any of it! I've re-read the DirectGov stuff about flexible working and realise he should have offered me a meeting to discuss why he's saying no. I've got to decide though whether it's worth the heartache, like LaCiccolina says.

And btw, don't worry about the operational side of my role - I would have a discrete caseload dictated by a geographical patch, wouldn't need to have handovers/ overlap with job-sharer, no issues about lack of continuity for service users - they'd just see me weekly as usual. And I wouldn't need to be fixed to one specific day of the week, I could change around if necessary. It's good to have all these concerns mentioned though as I've probably been wrongly assuming that my manager knows they wouldn't be an issue too.

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