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My son has been diagnosed with a medical condition, so I asked to go part-time to allow more time with him and to spread the load of caring for him with my partner. My bosses accepted my request but said I had to change jobs to one essentially one rung lower than the one I’m on now. Is that allowed? If not, what can I do about it?
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This week employment lawyer Steve Eckett helps a dad whose employers accepted his request for a new working arrangement, but at a price.
It would seem that you have either made a formal application for flexible working arrangements or perhaps your employer has simply agreed to this without following the formality that is usually associated with such a request.
The good news is that your employer is prepared to be flexible in this regard and allow you to work part-time hours to accommodate the needs of your son. On the flip side they recognise that your current role perhaps can only be performed on a full-time basis and have instead offered you a position which is one rung lower with less status and seniority.
Your employer cannot force you to take the part- time role which is one rung lower. You would need to agree to these changes to your terms and conditions of employment. If they are imposed on you unilaterally without your agreement, then this could give rise to a constructive dismissal claim assuming that you have two years’ continuity of service. You would be advised to raise a formal grievance though in these circumstances before walking out and resigning by giving your employer an opportunity to remedy any breach to your terms and conditions of employment.
You fail to clarify if the position being offered on a part-time basis is at the same salary as your current role? Do bear in mind that any part-time role will mean that your salary and holidays will be pro-rated, and you will in any event be earning less.
If the part-time role on offer is at the same salary level then I would say that this is very fair and could be to your advantage from a practical perspective as it will mean that you will have less stress and responsibility and will be able to devote more time to your son. There will be less risk of work getting in the way at critical times when you need to be with your son and need to support him, for example by attending hospital and medical appointments.
If your employer is adamant that your current role can only be performed full-time for example because it is client-facing and if they can show that part-time hours would impact on the business, then they can legally arrive at this decision.
You could as part of a flexible working application point out whether a job share would work, or perhaps how the needs of the role can be fulfilled by you in a part-time capacity. You would need to demonstrate this to your employer to their satisfaction.
I have to emphasis however that your employer only has to give serious consideration to your request to work part-time in your current role. It seems that they may have already done this and so you will need to decide whether to accept the offer of the part-time position which is one rung lower in status.
The other issue is whether any acceptance of the part-time role would be permanent or perhaps subject to a trial period? It is not clear and it may well be the position that if you accept the part-time position that your employer will appoint somebody else to undertake your current full time role and there will be no opportunity to return to your current full-time role.
As with all these things, it is about priorities and making compromises. I personally believe that an offer of a part-time role, albeit one rung lower is better than being placed in a situation where there is no flexibility on the issue, with the only option of undertaking your current role on a full-time basis or having to resign because there is no option to work part -time in any other role. If your employer agrees to pay you at the same rate but on a pro-rata basis then this is also reasonable.
Your employer also should issue you with revised written terms and conditions of employment confirming any changes to your role and position within the business should you accept the part-time role. Your continuity of employment and your employment protection rights in law will also be preserved.
If you agree to take up the part-time position then you are also entitled in law to the same treatment as full-time employees in terms of pay, holidays (albeit pro-rated), pension, training and career development.