Sometimes I get a glimpse into what it must be like to be a Doctor on a day off. You’re at a party, casually enjoying your cocktails and canapés (of course it’s one of those parties, you’re a Doctor remember, you socialise with the elite!) Your old friend Rachel who you haven’t seen for 12 years sidles up to you and asks you what you would recommend for her piles. Because in turns out that you have dispensable knowledge that people want to tap into…
Whilst I would never compare my career in HR to that of a Doctor (come on, these people save lives, I just tell off naughty employees all day) I do understand what its like have your brain picked at any random opportunity.
‘My husband’s boss told him he is going to sack him for being late every day, can he do that?’
‘My colleague gets paid more than me for doing the same job, is that allowed?’
‘My friend has been told she’s not allowed to blow her nose at work, is that legal?’
Ok so maybe I made up the last one, but you get the idea.
By far the most common questions I get asked though, is in relation to flexible working and employee’s rights around this area. Therefore I thought I would put some of the common flexible working myths together into one post, not only to dispel some myths, but also, to give me more time to focus on my cheese and chive dip at the next party…
Myth 1: My employer has to accept my flexible working application
Sadly not. (Could you imagine if this were true though and every employee working full time requested to drop their working days to one day per week? Imagine the carnage!) No, an employer can turn down your flexible working request if they have a valid business reason to decline it (eg they are unable to find cover for the rest of the hours you are proposing not to work).
Myth 2. Once I return from maternity leave, I have the right to work part time
Nope, another myth I’m afraid. Whilst (depending on at what point you return to work) you either have the right to return to the same or similar job, this does include the same working hours that you were on prior to maternity leave. A reduction in hours is something that has to be mutually agreed with your employer.
Myth 3: The flexible working application process is so long winded, it will take ages to get an answer
No, the application process itself is pretty straightforward. You either complete your company’s own forms, or use the one available on the Directgov website. Once submitted, your employer then has 3 months by which the process needs to be concluded. This includes meeting you to talk through your application, the outcome and also any appeal.
Myth 4: If my flexible working application gets agreed, I wont be able to submit another application
You will! You are able to submit a new flexible working request once every 12 months. So if you find the compressed hours you requested aren’t working for you, then fear not, you can request another change of working pattern after a year.
Myth 5: Flexible working means working part time
Absolutely not. Yes of course it can mean that, but it can also mean many other things. It can mean working some of your hours from home, it can mean changing your start and finishing time to tie in with childcare. It can even mean compressing your hours to work full time hours over 4 days. Basically it means what it says on the tin: Working flexibly.
Myth 6: I can only request a permanent change
Sometimes we just need a bit of flexibility for a short time don’t we. Flexible working doesn’t need to be a permanent thing – maybe you just need a temporary reduction in hours to care for a sick relative. Maybe your childminder has run off to Spain with her boyfriend (no word of a lie, when I was a child, mine genuinely did this one morning). Whatever the reason, a temporary flexible working request is an option to consider.
Myth 7: Once my change of hours has been agreed, my employer can’t change my contract again unless I agree to it
Sometimes employers can be a right pain in the arse. You are working a pattern that suits you, suits your life and your family, and then bam! You get called into a meeting whereby your boss informs you that actually, you know that Friday you have off every week? Yep, well he wants to change that to a Tuesday. Goodbye long weekend!
Whilst your employer cannot simply enforce these changes upon you, what they might try and do is go through what is known as a change of terms and conditions process. Eg they will spend a good few weeks consulting with you, ask you to suggest alternative options and then potentially ignore them anyway. If you still refuse to budge (that Friday off is precious after all) then another card your employer might play is to try and dismiss and reengage you with new terms and conditions (eg different working days).
Whilst this can be (and often is) done, it is a dicey move from your employer as depending on your reasons for the Friday off then the process could be deemed as sex discrimination, so always seek legal advice if your employer tries this move.
Myth 8: Only parents can apply for flexible working
Whilst this used to be the case, now anyone (as long as they have 26 weeks service) can apply. So if you fancy one day off per week to sit at home watching paint dry, well, yep you can apply for it.
So, hopefully that’s dispelled some myths about flexible working. Do let me know if there is anything else I’ve missed!
*To anyone who knows me, I promise this is a joke, I really don’t mind chatting employment law at 10pm on a Saturday night, promise. (Just please don’t get in the way of me and the prawn satay though ok…?