Ask An Expert One of my employees is due to return from maternity leave next month. She has now asked to come back on reduced hours, what can I do?
It is not uncommon for employees who are returning to work after a period of maternity leave to want to be able to strike a
comfortable work and home life balance. If this is the case, they have the right to request flexible working.
The right to make a flexible working request is available to all employees – not just parents – who have at least twenty-six weeks continuous employment with you, and have not made such a request in the past twelve months.
The request is normally made when an employee wishes to change their start and finish times, hours and days of work, or if they want to revamp their entire working pattern. Although the employee has the legal right to make a request, there is no obligation on you to grant the request. However, bearing that in mind, you can only refuse the request based on any of the statutory business grounds, for example the burden of additional costs, planned structural changes, or the inability to recruit additional staff.
If you are unable to accommodate the employee’s request, you may want to consider offering a change of department or role in which their requested hours or days of work can be accommodated. If this isn’t an option, you can still refuse as long as you have given the request reasonably consideration.