During pregnancy | Flexible working

Yes, you may ask to work part-time or on a different working pattern after being offered the job. The formal ‘right to apply for flexible working’ does not apply until you have been employed for 26 weeks [//www.acas.org.uk/flexibleworking] but you can ask before 26 weeks. A refusal may be indirect sex discrimination if your employer does not have justifiable business reasons to refuse.  Indirect sex discrimination is where there is a provision, such as full-time working applied to everyone, which particularly disadvantages women compared to men, and which the employer cannot show is necessary for the business link.  Your employer should consider carefully whether the job could be done in the hours or pattern requested by you.

If you have been employed for 26 weeks you can request flexible working. See guidance from Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) on flexible working

Your employer can refuse a flexible working request based on one of the eight reasons set out in the Code, which are:

  • the burden of additional costs
  • an inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff
  • an inability to recruit additional staff
  • a detrimental impact on quality
  • a detrimental impact on performance
  • a detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
  • insufficient work for the periods the employee proposes to work, and
  • a planned structural change to the business.

A refusal may be indirect sex discrimination. Indirect sex discrimination is where there is a provision, such as full-time working applied to everyone, which particularly disadvantages women compared to men, and which the employer cannot show is necessary for the business link. Your employer should consider carefully whether the job could be done in the hours or pattern requested by you. 

You can ask to change:

  • the hours you work, for example reducing the hours
  • the time you work, for example a later start or earlier finish, and
  • working from a different place, such as home.

If you are sure you want to work part-time or change your working pattern after  your return from maternity leave, you may want to discuss this as soon as you have decided  so you can arrange childcare and your employer can make plans to cover your work.

If you are not certain that you want to change your working pattern, it is advisable to wait before asking for a permanent change in your hours. Your circumstances may alter after your baby is born. 

It would be pregnancy discrimination to treat you badly or make you redundant as a result of your request for flexible working.

If you are made redundant because you work part-time this is likely to be indirect sex discrimination unless your employer can show that the job requires a full-time worker.  If you are made redundant for a genuine business reason, your redundancy payment is likely to be based on your part-time hours.

You do not have to follow a formal procedure if you are able to reach an agreement about flexible working with your employer. If an informal discussion does not lead to an agreement, you should follow the procedure as set out in the ACAS Code on Flexible Working.

Yes, an agreement to flexible working will usually mean a permanent change to your employment contract, unless you specifically ask for the change to your working pattern to be temporary.

If your request for flexible working is refused without a good reason this might be indirect sex discrimination.

Indirect sex discrimination is where an employer applies a provision, criterion or practice to both women and men that puts women at a particular disadvantage compared to men and is not necessary for the business.

Last updated: 21 Dec 2018