You can ask her whether she is likely to want to change her working pattern, and discuss the possibilities if she wants to do so. However, you should assume that she will return to the same job on the same terms and conditions, including the same hours, unless she says otherwise. If she says that she does not know, it is best not to put pressure on her to make up her mind at this early stage as she may think you are making an assumption that she will want to work part-time, which would not be made about an employee who is not pregnant. This could be discrimination.
If she has been employed for 26 weeks she can request flexible working. The procedure for this is explained in the ACAS code of practice on handling in a reasonable manner requests to work flexibly. There is also ACAS guidance on the right to request flexible working. However, you may want to have an informal chat first to see if her request can be accommodated without the need to go through a more formal process. Under the formal process you can refuse for one of the eight reasons set out in the Code, which are
- burden of additional costs
- inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff
- inability to recruit additional staff
- detrimental impact on quality
- detrimental impact on performance
- detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
- insufficient work for the periods the employee proposes to work, and
- 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) You should consider carefully whether the job could be done in the hours or pattern requested by the employee.
She can ask to change:
- the hours she works, for example reducing her hours
- the time she works, for example a later start or earlier finish, and
- working from a different place, such as home.
Yes, it will usually be a permanent change to her contract but you can agree with your employee that it should be on a temporary basis
Last updated: 04 Dec 2018