How to deal with requests to return from maternity leave on a part-time basis

  • Take into account that a change from full-time work to part-time work on an employee’s return from maternity leave requires your agreement.
  • Be aware that the Part-time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2002 do not give employees the right to work part time.
  • However, take into account that the refusal of a request to return to work part time after maternity leave may constitute indirect sex discrimination.
  • If you do decide to refuse a request for part-time working after maternity leave, make sure that you are able to justify the refusal objectively.
  • Take a positive view of requests to work part time after maternity leave, and appreciate that such arrangements can be beneficial to the company.
  • Ensure that, where a woman is permitted to return to work after maternity leave on a part-time basis, she is provided with terms and conditions no less favourable (on a pro rata basis) than those she enjoyed while full time.
  • Ensure that you are familiar with the right for employees with 26 weeks’ service and a child under the age of six – which will include employees returning from maternity leave – to request flexible working, which includes part-time working.
  • Train managers on the statutory procedure that must be followed on receipt of a valid request for flexible working.
  • Ensure that a request for flexible working is rejected only for one or more of the permissible reasons.
  • Be aware, and make employees aware, that any change to working arrangements under the right to request flexible working legislation is a permanent change, unless agreed otherwise.

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