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“We have had a member of staff come back from maternity leave in June. Following a request from her to reduce her hours, her role in the company also changed. Where do we legally stand if the hours she now works do not suit the needs of the business? She works Wednesday, Thursday and Friday mornings but our busiest times are Monday and Friday afternoons. Her hours therefore could cause us issues going forward.”
A change in hours following a flexible working request is a permanent change and can be daunting. However, provided the change can reasonably be justified and you handle the matter correctly you will be able to make the changes.
If you need to change her hours you will ultimately need treat it as a variation of terms and conditions. The first stage is to have an initial consultation meeting with the employee concerned to discuss the issue and to see whether she is amenable to the change, and if not, what obstacles are present. You can reach any agreement you are both happy to agree to. Any agreement should be evidenced in writing and will form the basis of the new contract between you.
If the employee refuses to accept the change and the business cannot continue this status quo (which could be exploring whether you can find alternative employees to carry out the busy periods) then there are two options;
Both carry risks as with the first it would risk a breach of contract if consent is not given. If the employee has more than two years’ service she could resign and claim constructive dismissal. With the second option, clearly as there is a dismissal then she could not accept the re-engagement and claim unfair dismissal.
Due to the risk therefore, it is best to try to seek the employee’s consent, explaining the problems caused to the business in relation to her working hours against the needs of the business and see if you can obtain consent.
Don’t forget, this advice is general in nature and will need to be tailored to any one particular situation. As an RMI member you have access to the RMI Legal advice line, as well as a number of industry experts for your assistance. Should you find yourself in the situation above, contact us at any stage for advice and assistance as appropriate.
Motor Industry Legal Services
Motor Industry Legal Services (MILS Solicitors) provides fully comprehensive legal advice and representation to UK motor retailers for one annual fee. It is the only law firm in the UK which specialises in motor law and motor trade law. MILS currently advises over 1,000 individual businesses within the sector as well as the Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMI) and its members.