I have young children and elderly parents and am interested in going part-time, perhaps as a job share. I have a stressful job managing a child protection team in a large city. Do I have the right to work part-time?
You can request flexible working arrangements, to help you look after your children – but there are conditions and your employer can say no.
The right to make a request applies to the parents of young or disabled children. To qualify, you must have a child under six, or a disabled child under 18. You must have worked for the employer for 26 weeks. You must have responsibility for the care of your child. The purpose of the request must be so you can care for your son or daughter.
While the employer is not bound to agree the request, they must examine it fairly. If they refuse to agree employers must have reasons related to one of a number of specific grounds. These include the burden of additional costs, inability to reorganise work among existing staff, impact on quality or performance and inability to recruit additional staff. In very limited circumstances an employer’s refusal may be challenged at an employment tribunal.
You will have worked out that this is not anything like a guarantee that flexible working will be available to you. However, what the legal stuff is intended to do is to promote sensible discussion between employee and employer.
Unfortunately elderly parents are not relevant within the limited criteria.
Ask your union steward to help you think through the situation and put down some constructive ideas to discuss with your employer. The regulations say there must be a meeting within 28 days to discuss the request. You and your rep can try to persuade the employer to be sympathetic. And hopefully you will jointly be able come up with a solution that suits everyone.
Owen Davies is national officer for local government at public sector union Unison.
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