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2 Employment - updated version available December '16

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1. Introduction

2. Do I need a contract of employment?

3. Do I have the right to work in the UK?

4. What is the least I should be paid?

5. How many hours can my employer make me work?

6. Does my employer have to recognise my trade union?

7. What if I've been dismissed unfairly?

8. Bringing a statutory claim for unfair dismissal

9. What if I've been made redundant?

10. Bringing a contractual claim for wrongful dismissal

11. What if I've been discriminated against?

12. What are my rights if I work part-time?

13. What are my rights if I'm having a baby?

14. Can I take leave as a new Father?

15. What are my rights if I'm adopting a child?

16. What other leave can I get after my child is born or adopted?

17. Can I change my working arrangements if I have children?

If you care for children, you have the right to ask to work to a flexible working pattern. To be eligible for this you must:

  • have a child under six (under 18 if your child is disabled);
  • have worked with your employer continuously for 26 weeks at the time you ask for flexible working;
  • apply no later than two weeks before your child's sixth birthday (18th birthday if your child is disabled);
  • be responsible (or expect to be responsible) for bringing up your child;
  • be applying for flexible working so that you can care for your child; and
  • be employed, rather than working as, say, a self-employed contractor.

A flexible working pattern can mean:

  • a change to the hours you work;
  • a change to the times when you are required; or
  • working from home.

If you do change your working pattern, it will become a permanent change to your terms and conditions of employment (unless you and your employer agree that it will not). You will have no right to go back to your previous terms and conditions, even after your child turns six (or, if they are disabled, 18).

Types of flexible working pattern

The sorts of working pattern that you might be able to follow include:

  • annualised hours (calculating the hours you work over a whole year, instead of, for example, a week);
  • compressed hours (working your total number of hours over fewer working days);
  • flexitime;
  • working from home;
  • job-sharing;
  • shift-working;
  • staggered hours (allowing employees to have different start, break and finish times); and
  • term-time working (allowing you to take paid or unpaid leave during school holidays).

How do I apply?
You can make only one application for flexible working patterns each year. You must apply in writing:

  • setting out what changes you would like and when you want them to start;
  • explaining any effect the changes will have on your employer and how you think they might be able to deal with these;
  • explaining why you are entitled to flexible working patterns, and your relationship with the child you will be caring for.

Within 28 days your employer must:

  • tell you in writing that they agree to the changes; or
  • arrange to meet you within the 28-day period to discuss your proposal.

If you have a meeting, your employer must write to you within 14 days after the meeting to:

  • tell you they have agreed with a new work pattern and its start date; or
  • give you clear business reasons why they can't agree to a new work pattern, and tell you how you can appeal against this decision.

You can appeal against the decision within 14 days, by writing a letter explaining why you think your employer's decision is wrong. Your employer can either accept your appeal, or hold an appeal meeting, within 14 days of receiving your letter.

At any of these meetings, you can take a colleague with you, if you wish. You must be given a decision on your appeal, in writing, within 14 days of the meeting, including an explanation if your appeal is rejected.

When can my employer reject my application?

The 'business grounds' upon which your employer may reject your application include:

  • the extra costs of your proposal would be too high;
  • your employer would not be able to recruit extra staff or reorganise work among existing staff; or
  • the changes would have too great an impact on the quality of the service or product the business provides or on the business's ability to meet the demands of its customers;
  • there wouldn't be enough work to do during the periods you plan to work; or
  • your employer is planning structural changes to the organisation.

You can complain to the employment tribunal if your employer:

  • rejects your application for reasons other than those they are allowed to give;
  • bases their decision on incorrect facts; or
  • broke the rules about how they must handle flexible working applications.

If you take your complaint to an employment tribunal and you win your case, your employer may have to look at your application again or pay you compensation of up to eight weeks' pay (or both).  But the tribunal cannot force the employer to allow you to work inthe way you asked for in your application. 

The law protects you from suffering unfair treatment or being dismissed for applying or wanting to apply for a change to your working pattern.

18. Can I take time off if I am someone's carer?

19. Further Help

20. About this leaflet

This leaflet is published by the Legal Services Commission (LSC). It was written in association with Ian Hunter, Head of the Employment Department, Bird & Bird, Solicitors.

The leaflets are regularly updated but the law may have changed since they were printed so the information in them may be incorrect or out of date.

Leaflet Version: January 2019

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