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Demanding travel and calls outside normal hours

(26 Posts)
CheeseAndWineParty Sat 27-Aug-16 19:37:48

I'm due to return to work in an office based job within the next few months following the birth of my first child and am currently in negotiations around my flex working request. I am very stressed out and would really appreciate some advice please.

I have asked to finish work at a set time each day as much as possible, and have indicated that I would be happy to take calls outside usual business hours and travel for work, given reasonable notice to arrange childcare. I've made my employer aware that I will be responsible for drop-offs and collection of my child from nursery. I wanted to return three days per week and they have declined this but offered four. I am prepared to do this. It is not the same role I had before maternity leave, but they have a number of roles they would like to discuss with me. My boss made it crystal clear in previous conversations that my career development/progression would be halted if I opted for a three day role, so I have felt very much pressurised into agreeing to four days. However, they have said that when not travelling, I can work from home.

My boss has now emailed me saying that I am required to take calls outside of usual business hours and travel away from home and away from my usual base location office 'as the need arises and at short notice' saying that there is an 'expectation and understanding that people of my level of seniority will do whatever hours are required to get the job done' (I'm a senior manager). My boss has said that if I don't commit to this, they will demote me to a role of lesser rank and cut my salary accordingly.

I totally understand that in order to meet the needs of the business, our department needs to offer some flexibility in the hours we work. I've been in the team for several years with excellent appraisals and have had four promotions in that time. That said, how can they possibly expect someone with caring/parental responsibilities to provide a total blanket commitment to travelling away from home at short notice 'as the need arises'? I would move heaven and earth to try and meet that need, my work ethic and commitment to the organisation hasn't changed. nevertheless the possibility exists that there will come a time when I have to say 'no' because I physically cannot arrange childcare with short notice. What happens then? I'm pretty sure that I would either face disciplinary proceedings or at the very least face damage to my career prospects.

Can they do this? My contract states that I will be required to work from other locations from time to time, and I want to be clear, I'm happy to try and do what I can, but I cannot offer that total commitment which they say is required.

I feel bullied into four days, bullied into travel and 'discretionary effort' and honestly after almost a decade of seriously hard work, it's difficult to digest.

There are other parents in my department working three day weeks with limited travel. Were they threatened with demotion if they didn't promise to work outside business hours no matter how short notice the need?

I have a call in a week or so with said boss and department head. Absolutely dreading it and don't know what to do. Sorry to rant on - I'm stressed beyond belief as you can probably tell!

KirstyJC Sat 27-Aug-16 19:51:52

How different is this from your pre-maternity work and conditions? Did you often have to take calls outside of working hours and travel at short notice before? And how long have you been on leave? Are they proposing that you do in 4 days the work you previously did in 5 days? But with them only paying you for 4 days?! Or have you always worked over and above?

I am not a legal bod but - in the UK - I think they have to offer a role of similar level, pay and responsibility if you are returning over 6 months but under a year - but not sure how this is impacted by your request to reduce hours. That might effectively be a new job? You need to get some proper help -- are you in a union? Is there an HR Dept? Maybe it might be worth looking at a specialist employment solicitor to check.

I think you can only have a request for flexible working refused if there is a genuine business reason, which of course there might be. But they should make it really clear on what grounds they can't offer you the 3 you requested.

facepalming Tue 30-Aug-16 14:38:12

Get straight onto Acas and ask them. I believe you would have a case for discrimination If they demoted you or gave you any trouble for not being able to stay late / travel at short notice / take calls out of hours etc due to having a dc.

I had a job exactly like you describe when I got pregnant with dc1. at my level there were only men who were either single or had wives who stay at home and it was a struggle to keep up even without dc! when dc came I said I wouldn't be able to keep doing what I was doing so they gave me a different role same money... I thought they were helping me out - no late working no travel etc until they made me redundant a few months after I came back from mat leave.

I miss my old role terribly and I kick myself for not being tougher - especially when I read about other women being pushed out the same way.

give Acas a call and tread carefully. good luck

CheeseAndWineParty Tue 30-Aug-16 19:06:20

Thanks for the replies, much appreciated and yes I will give ACAS a call. It seems I have questioned the 'unspoken rules' about a senior level corporate job and they're trying to put me back in my box! I just don't accept that I'm suddenly less capable of being in a leadership role and making a good contribution because I can't give a cast iron guarantee that I'll be able to hop on a plane/train at short notice every time they ask.

SparklesandBangs Tue 30-Aug-16 19:33:43

I am hoping that ACAS can help you but I do believe that it does somewhat depend on what your role comprised of before. If the role requires flexibility and you can't give it, the business need may be able to show reason to decline your request. When I was an employer I would always try to find a way to make request like yours work but sadly it wasn't always possible.

If others are working reduced days and not travelling are the at your level or the demoted level, are they all women back from maternity leave is there any patterns (discrimination)?

facepalming Wed 31-Aug-16 08:17:29

There is some very apt info in the news today. so sad in 2016! I think in the case of myself and OP the biggest positive change would come from having sensible expectations from all staff, regardless of level of seniority or gender. Last minute travel, long hours and a 24/7 working culture are not conducive to a healthy life regardless of your family situation but as long as there are people working this way parents who cannot will always be disadvantaged.

Dozer Wed 31-Aug-16 08:23:21

That sounds like sex discrimination: suggest you take legal advice.

Do you have what your boss said? If not you could email him and say you were disappointed to be told that career progression would not be possible three days a week. Then it's "on the record".

One option is to just take a role that's offered and then when you start refuse the extended hours/travel at short notice: see if they dare discipline you.

"i will be responsible for all drop-offs and collection of my child from nursery". That's a huge disadvantage at work IME: if you have a DP can they share this? Will they be sharing time off when DC is ill etc?

It's not realistic to take phone calls from home if you're in sole charge of very young DC.

Dozer Wed 31-Aug-16 08:24:22

Get them to put stuff in writing.

curlywillow Wed 31-Aug-16 08:37:26

I'm a senior employment lawyer.

This comes up all the time. You're wanting to have your cake and eat it I'm afraid.

If you are contracted to work in a FT role which requires you to take calls outside of core hours and work "such other hours as a reasonably required to perform your duties" (as will be the case with most senior roles) then cutting your days to 4 days still means that you are required to do these "additional" tasks/hours/travel on the four days that you work.

You can't just say "I'm not working on Fridays and I'm also not willing to perform the role to the full extent on the other 4 days and so come 5pm on my working days my phone will be switched off and I'll be walking out of the office even though everyone else will probably still be there past 6."

On the four days that you work you need to work to the full extent required. If that means lots of travel etc which results in you getting home at 8pm then that's what the job means. If you can't do the job because you want to personally collect your child from nursery then it is likely to be reasonable for the company to want to explore other roles that you are willing to perform to the full extent. This may well mean a lesser paid/less senior role. They don't actually have to do this btw, they are doing you a favour. they could just performance manage you for not doing your job properly on your working days.

Dozer Wed 31-Aug-16 12:38:29

That just shows the limitations and favour to the employer of employment law sad

Jackie0 Wed 31-Aug-16 12:49:37

I completely see Curly' s point.
If you are a senior manager required to take calls and travel and wish to stay in that role then you need to need to do what the job entails .
Is this solely your problem to solve ?
Is the child's father not taking half the responsibility?
I assumed families , mum's and dad's with good careers used nannies , is that a possibility?

Jackie0 Wed 31-Aug-16 12:51:10

Stray apostrophe, sorry

CheeseAndWineParty Wed 31-Aug-16 16:11:40

Interesting responses, thank you! DH and I would work as a team to cover the responsibility together, but I still think the major share would fall to me. He has negotiated occasional home working so he can do nursery pick ups sometimes but he often works away from home. We've moved house to be closer to family members who can help out and have friends in the area who have already volunteered to help when they can. I'm willing to do the extra hours, as I always have done, and the travel, but there is still the possibility that on rare occasions I won't be able to do short notice requests. It's that I think they're going to take issue with. It's not the same job as pre-baby, but still the same level. Seems odd that other returning mums in the department at my level have been found flex jobs without these requirements though. I guess I will have to see if they're happy with a best endeavours approach or not, and if not then I have some decisions to make.

RipMacWinkle Wed 31-Aug-16 18:28:44

Could it be that fact that's the difficulty? What I mean is that across teams there may be precedent that a certain pattern is possible. But there must also be a point where the team cannot sustain another. Could it be that the team has hit that capacity? Sorry if I've misunderstood the team dynamics.

Dozer Wed 31-Aug-16 19:49:46

Be very careful that your H retains his current ability to prioritise work and travel while you cannot and have negative consequences at work. He could equally seek flexibility, eg less travel.

BackforGood Wed 31-Aug-16 20:21:14

So it's not really your work that is showing sex discrimination, but you and your dh.
What you've said is that he can't look after his child, because he works away from home often, and that seems to be acceptable to you both, but that you can't do the job you did previously because that job means you can't be at home for your ds, which is apparently imperative.

Now, don't get me wrong, I know it's really difficult, but you can't blame your company - from what you've put, it sounds like they are being more than fair with the home working and reduced hours despite your senior role. Cries of sex discrimination (from other posters) are just ridiculous when you look objectively at the facts.

Stillunexpected Wed 31-Aug-16 23:47:56

Read through the thread, my mouth fell open a little at your most recent post, but BackforGood summed up my feelings very succinctly! You are both parents, why is your husband not considering working away from home less in order to facilitate your travel and parenting of your joint child? Are your jobs equally of importance to you or is his perceived by you both as more important and his contribution to childcare arrangements seen as a concession while yours is seen as a given? You might also want to consider who is going to take time off from work when your child is sick/has a doctor's appt/nursery is closed etc? Will you share this equally or are you (and therefore your company) going to take the brunt of this?

Iizzyb Thu 01-Sep-16 00:26:53

It's a tricky one really isn't it? I'm also an employment lawyer & a working mum.

If you used to work lots of extra hours before mat leave that work still needs to be done. So, either you put childcare in place so that you can do it (dh, childminder, nanny, nursery + au pair, family nearby etc) and accept you won't see as much of your child or you take a job that is more flexible so that you can do all drop offs and pick ups.

It's not discrimination to expect you to still do your job.

I moved jobs knowing that I could never have a child & see it because I would always be working and in my current job we have compromised so I travel but not more than 2 nights away & we always have notice of hearings & meetings. Dm takes ds if I have to go away. I bring work home if I need to so I can pick up from nursery (I do have back up if needed) but I don't work at home unless ds is asleep.

Being a mum is great but sometimes you just have to figure out what's most important to you & your family. Two parents with v demanding jobs is going to be pretty tough unless you get some proper paid help or one of you agrees to take a step back to allow the other to commit to a chosen career path.

Don't rule anything out but be realistic too. Babies & toddlers are more physically demanding but ds now (4) would be less happy with me being away/out/working late etc than he was when younger as he didn't really know so could be easier to test the water whilst lo is small.

Ime places like councils are much more flexible but service levels often suffer as a result which a private business is unlikely to tolerate.

curlywillow Thu 01-Sep-16 08:01:19

Is there any possibility of your DH doing the morning drop offs and you being at work extra early or do you need to be physically present to manage people? That's the other issue with managerial jobs. Its no good a manager doing a shifted day if those employees they are supposed to be managing are not at work at that time.

I do hope you get it sorted out but tbh it sounds like you need a childminder or a family member to do the nursery pick up on the days that you work.

I sympathise. DH and I both have jobs like this and so have had years of juggling. We split things so that he does every morning drop off (unless he's away with work when I have to step in often at very short notice) and I work a shifted day starting very early and do the afternoons. We then have three back ups on hand so that at least someone would hopefully be around to help with the DC if we both have to be away/in a meeting at the same time on the same day.

What I would also point out is that this gets much harder not easier as the years go on. Nursery hours of 7.30/8am - 6pm are doddle and so easy compared to when your DC start school and you're trying to manage 8.45 - 3.15....

Dozer Thu 01-Sep-16 18:53:16

I still think it's discriminatory, perhaps not legally, but this is one of the main reasons mothers hit a "glass ceiling"! Women almost always do more childcare: OP is not at all unusual there. employers can make it very difficult indeed for women to go PT, stay at the same level, let alone progress. It stinks!

mouldycheesefan Thu 01-Sep-16 19:01:11

Dozer, It doesn't stink! I think the company are being very reasonable! She can work from home and reduce her hours to 4 days. They are big adjustments.
The fact that it's the mum making all the changes here and not the dad is the decision of the op and her DH. He could request to go three days per week, but he hasn't!
The company sound perfectly reasonable to me. They can't be chastised for the ops own arrangements!

CheeseAndWineParty Thu 01-Sep-16 19:04:36

Long story short, DH is a consultant sent out on jobs across the country. We didn't plan it that way, he was made redundant out of the blue three weeks before baby was born and took this job because we needed the money. Will see how we go sorting out a role for me that limits travel as much as possible, or I may have to find something else closer to home, or even be a SAHM for a bit. I don't resent that, but I feel disappointed.I thought I'd played a blinder waiting to be a bit more senior before starting a family, more money and security etc, it's quite a tough lesson to learn that there really is no such thing as having it all.

mouldycheesefan Thu 01-Sep-16 19:11:23

You do have it all, a senior role and a baby. But is it easy, of course not! Does it involve juggling, shelling out for childcare etc - yes! Did I spend £45k in childcare by the time my kids were 4? Yes!
Your work are being reasonable you need to give it a try on the four days. They could have said no to that so bear that in mind.

Dozer Thu 01-Sep-16 19:58:38

So as his current job is v new and not good for all of you, then your H could seek a new, more family friendly job too?

It's a bit weird that the company are OK with working from home yet have qualms about a fixed time for leaving the office (without notice). That doesn't stack up in business terms: illogical.

Don't be a SAHM when you built a career you want to keep. That'd put you in an even weaker position for the future - as a PP says the primary years are worse! Go back to a senior role - say you can do what's required, in reality it might be OK - and juggle stuff and try not to get penalised! You're actually in a good position because yo have back up help locally and could organise more.

Returning to work after

Dozer Thu 01-Sep-16 19:59:38

After DC is a time of big shocks for lots of us who thought things were becoming more equal. Not at all the case, for women who are parents certainly.

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