Settlement Agreements and Part Time Hours

Sometimes employees sign settlement agreements after being refused the right to work part time hours.

It is a common misconception that employees returning from maternity, paternity or adoption leave automatically have a right to work part-time hours if they request them. The right to request flexible working was introduced in April 2006. Essentially there is legislation which allows an eligible employee to make a request to work part-time or flexibly. Employees must follow the statutory procedure for such requests and then the employer is obliged to consider the application. There are a number of grounds on which an employer can refuse to grant the request. The key point to note is that there is NO RIGHT to work flexibly, but there is a right to make a request.

Who is eligible?

Applicants must: • Be employed; • Have 26 weeks’ continuous employment at the date that the request is made; • Not be an agency worker or a member of the armed forces; and • Not have made another request in the previous twelve months.

What are they applying for?

Currently an eligible employee can apply in relation to: • Caring responsibilities of a child under the age of 17 (or 18 if the child is disabled); or • Caring for a person aged 18 or over who is in need of care. What can they request? • A change in hours; • A change in the times they are required to work; or • A change to location. For what reasons can an employer reject a request? An employer can reject a request for flexible working for one of the following reasons: • The burden of additional costs; • Detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand; • Inability to re-organise work among existing staff; • Inability to recruit additional staff; • Detrimental impact on quality; • Detrimental impact on performance; • Insufficiency of work during the periods the employee proposes to work; or • Planned structural changes.

No matter which reason is relevant to a rejection, an employer must always ensure that the notice contains sufficient explanation.

So it is clearly not as simple as some may believe to move to part-time working. If you have been refused a request to work part time and then offered a settlement agreement, you should seek full legal advice

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