Career Clinic

Q: Two years ago a colleague went part-time. Recently I discovered that she is still being paid a full-time salary. I have lodged a complaint. What are my rights?

A: Over the past few years, the government has introduced a number of employment legislation changes designed to encourage family-friendly working arrangements, such as the right to request a temporary or permanent reduction in hours. The employer does not have to agree to all such requests, but it does have to give the request due consideration and the expectation is that the request will be agreed to unless there is a pressing business reason to prevent it.

Nowhere in the legislation does it say that the employee continues to be entitled to full-time terms and conditions, since this would obviously be unfair to the rest of the workforce.

A reduction in hours should be accompanied by a pro rata reduction in salary and associated benefits (such as annual leave). What can happen, however, is that an employee remains on full terms and conditions during a very short term adjustment to the working hours, for example when returning from a long period of sick leave.

Sometimes it makes sense to ease the employee back in gently, perhaps by using a combination of annual leave and paid “special” leave, to give them a chance to build their stamina up. In that case, their gross pay remains unchanged during the transition period.

In the situation you describe, this would not appear to be the case. I suspect that it might turn out to be nothing more than an administrative glitch, and that someone forgot to tell payroll to make the necessary pay adjustments. There is an argument to say that your colleague should have realised that she was being overpaid and queried it – but, well, we are all human beings.

You have done exactly the right thing in registering your concern. You should expect this to be dealt with in accordance with your grievance procedure, and that would normally be done informally in the first instance. You should not expect to be told the detail of what has happened or why, but you can expect to be reassured that the matter has been thoroughly investigated and appropriate action taken.

Another possibility is that your information is not totally accurate. Sometimes people refer to salaries as a pay rate, in the sense of being the scale for that post or the full-time equivalent salary. If that is the case, the investigation will make it clear.

Alison Sanger is a social care HR consultant

A: I can’t believe this is actually the case – when have you ever known of an employer shelling out more than it needs to? If it is true though, it could be a case of them having agreed to your colleague working 35 hours over three days instead of five. But even this would be pretty unusual, as arrangements like this tend to squash weekly hours into four days, not three. Is there any possibility she could be working from home one or two days a week and you just hadn’t realised? Any flexi-arrangement like this would not allow a reduced caseload – which I understand she has.

Name and address withheld

21 June question

Q: I am a volunteer driver in my local area, most of the time using my own car. I am also a smoker, although I never smoke when I’m driving a client. I have been told that I have to put No Smoking stickers in my car in readiness for the 1 July 2007 law change. Surely this can’t be right?

We will answer this question in the 21 June issue of Community Care. Please send your advice for publication to by 13 June.

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