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There is no automatic right to return to work part-time, however an employee returning from maternity leave has the right to request to work flexibly. This often takes the form of a request change their working hours, pattern of work (e.g. flexi time) or even place of work, such as working from home from home.

To qualify, the parent or caring for a child under the age of 17 (18 years of age for a child with a disability) must have been an employee for a minimum of 26 weeks (six months).

The term request is precise, the employee may make the request and the request must be in writing explaining the effect that the proposed changes would have and how the employee thinks that the employer might be able to deal with the issues raised.

The employer must consider the request, inviting the employee to a meeting to discuss the details of the request.

An employer can refuse such a request for one or more of the following reasons:

  1. The burden of additional costs;
  2. Detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand;
  3. Inability to re-organise work among existing staff;
  4. Inability to recruit additional staff;
  5. Detrimental impact on quality;
  6. Detrimental impact on performance;
  7. Insufficiency of work during the period the employee proposes to work; or
  8. Planned structural changes.

An important factor not on the list is ensure that in making of the decision, the process and reasoning does not fall foul of the Equality Act 2010.

If the employer does refuses the application, then he must write to the employee giving them sufficient explanation PLUS information about how to appeal.

It is pointless speculating about the potential grounds an employee might have for taking issue however problems usually arise when an employer has failed to follow the procedure or has provided erroneous information in their decision.