As you know I have two nephews both under the age of 4. My sister is a working mum and is due to return back to work next week after maternity leave. After having nephew #1, there were no problems with my sister coming back to work on flexi hours so she could pick her son up from nursery on time.
This time round was a completely different matter.
Both boys will be in nursery three times a week with my mum and the mother in law looking after the boys for the remaining two days. Sister submitted her request for flexi hours, this was rejected. So she submitted an alternative flexi hour request which enabled her to leave early on the days to pick up the boys from nursery and make up the hours on the remaining days. This request was also rejected on the basis that my sister would need to be ‘visible’ in the office. This reason was given after HR said she would be client facing and needs to be in the office, bearing in mind that in all her time of working at this company she has not ever client faced, her role does not involve client facing. In addition to this my sister’s hours have increased. HR has said they are reviewing everyone within the company’s flexi hours. Then back tracked saying they are not doing this.
With the aid of the internet and my own HR department, both me and my sister have been doing a bit of research of our own.
What I discovered is a company does not necessarily have to agree to the flexi hours request but they do have to provide a legitimate reason for why the request has been rejected.
If my sister wasn’t going through this situation with her company I doubt I would have found half the information I have. Despite procedures in place it is surprising how many working mothers have faced similar problems when returning to work. The way some companies react to a member of staff with a young child, with 1 in 7 pregnant working mums are made redundant after maternity leave. Something I found surprising, especially as the UK is meant to be all modern and moving with the times. A woman didn’t suddenly develop a terminal illness, she is simply had a child.
There are groups out there to help working mums know their rights. A company does not necessarily have to agree to the flexi hours request but they do have to provide a legitimate, reason for why the request has been rejected.
As in the case of my sister and many other working mums walking out of their job is not always an option. If you feel you have been unfairly treated there are groups out there who can help you. They will advise you of both you and your employer’s rights and what your options are.
Through an article written on the online Guardian website I came across the website Maternity Action.
‘Maternity Action works to end inequality and promote the health and well-being of all pregnant women, their partners and children from before conception through to the child’s early years. ‘
Through speaking with my company’s HR I found out my sisters company can increase her working hours, but was advised that my sister should also speak with the group ACAS.
Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) aims to improve organisations and working life through better employment relations.
Based on the information my sister provided ACAS believed her company had not followed the correct procedure regarding her return to work. As a result she had grounds to submit a grievance. My sister is in two minds about doing this as she is concerned about the repercussions.
Outcome, sister has spoken with her manager again who has been explaining the department is struggling with staff shortages and an increase in workload. All of which was not mentioned in the previous two meeting that also involved HR.
My sister has agreed to go back to work doing her old hours which included leaving work early one day in the week, then resubmit a flexible request again later on in the year. Her husband is going to speak with his manager to try and be around for one nursery day, he does shift work so not sure how that will work. Rest of the time sister will have to rely on both sets of parents. She isn’t going to submit a grievance this time but I do think she needs to let the key players know she has spoken with ACAS and to inquire about the company’s grievance policy, plant the seed. 😉