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The East Dulwich Forum
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messageFlexible working after maternity
Posted by flutterby 03 April, 2012 21:24

Hi,

I'm not sure if anyone out there can help me? I have been trying to go back to work part-time after having my twin babies.

My employer (a local authority) and I have not been able to agree on a flexible working arrangement that would satisfy us both. I have been through the two complaints/appeal procedures and offered options, but to no avail. They have offered me 3 x 9 hour days in the office but that won't work for me as I need some homeworking to reduce childcare costs, which are astronomical for twin babies.

I offered them 30 hours which includes office time and some homeworking. They said no. So, we are now at an empasse.

I don't want to give up my career as I enjoy my job but at the same time, I also want to be a parent.

But as I see it, my options are limited. Resign and resign myself to trying to find something else or resign and go legal, which I'm told could cost up to 25K if the case goes to tribunal, which often happens when going up against a local authority.

Has anyone had a similar experience? Or, anyone with some advice?

Thanks
f

messageRe: Flexible working after maternity
Posted by amydown 03 April, 2012 21:28

Will you have childcare in place when you are working from home and therefore saving childcare costs just for the commuting hours or were you hoping to look after kids whilst working from home? Just for a clearer picture.

messageRe: Flexible working after maternity
Posted by flutterby 03 April, 2012 21:35

I'd be working in my office in the loft while the children would be cared for by a friend/family member downstairs. I'd only really come down if there was an emergency. But, none feel comfortable with looking after them without me being close by.

messageRe: Flexible working after maternity
Posted by Fuschia 03 April, 2012 21:43

[www.lge.gov.uk]

What reason have they given for refusal? Actually many local authorities are actively encouraging homeworking as a cost cutting exercise

[www.guardian.co.uk]

[www.idea.gov.uk]

messageRe: Flexible working after maternity
Posted by Fuschia 03 April, 2012 21:44

Valid reasons only


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
planned structural changes

messageRe: Flexible working after maternity
Posted by Fuschia 03 April, 2012 21:45

It could really only be on grounds of quality or performance ...?
How about suggesting a trial?

messageRe: Flexible working after maternity
Posted by Fuschia 03 April, 2012 21:47

Acas offer an arbitration service

[www.acas.org.uk]

messageRe: Flexible working after maternity
Posted by flutterby 03 April, 2012 21:51

Thanks for the info. They've stated detriment to the function of the business.

I suggested a trial which they turned down. In fact, I've suggested a couple of options but they won't budge.

I will look at Acas link now.

messageRe: Flexible working after maternity
Posted by Fuschia 03 April, 2012 22:16

flutterby Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Thanks for the info. They've stated detriment to
> the function of the business.


Is that not too vague? It's not one of the reasons quoted on the lge site

How senior in hr has it gone?
Try talking to TAMBA re the cost of Childcare for twins .. Involve your mp ... Your councillor if you live in the same borough

Are you a unison member?

messageRe: Flexible working after maternity
Posted by Fuschia 03 April, 2012 22:23

Have you ever worked at home before?

[www.personneltoday.com]

Note case law Giles v Geach



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit was 2012:04:03:22:24:12 by Fuschia.

messageRe: Flexible working after maternity
Posted by Fuschia 03 April, 2012 22:31


messageRe: Flexible working after maternity
Posted by flutterby 03 April, 2012 22:49

I've sent you a PM with more details.

There is a more detailed explanation of detrimental to the function of business.

I was in a union for ten years then changed jobs didn't join the union and thus now don't have union support!

I'll have a look at all your suggestions Fuschia, thanks

messageRe: Flexible working after maternity
Posted by Princess 04 April, 2012 06:23

It's worth looking at your home insurance too which probably allows you some free legal advice. I was in a similar situation to you and was ultimately made redundant. The free advice I received via our insurers made sure I walked away with a decent package because some of the things they'd done and how they'd dine them weren't quite right. Good luck.

messageRe: Flexible working after maternity
Posted by flutterby 04 April, 2012 07:20

Thanks Princess.

I've looked at this and am entitled to some free legal advice. I can choose a law firm (and top up the costs) or use the panel solicitors approved by the insurers (and have costs paid in full), I take it, from your response, this is what you did.

From doing a bit of surfing people have questioned using the panel solicitors because they are often use associates to do the bulk of the work(i.e. not long out of law school)? I'm not sure about that....?

messageRe: Flexible working after maternity
Posted by Fuschia 04 April, 2012 07:22

There are solicitors listed on TAMBA website who specialise

messageRe: Flexible working after maternity
Posted by dulwichgirl2 04 April, 2012 08:09

I never understand the inception that working from home saves onchildcare. There is no obligation on employers to allow people to work from home while looking after children so how can anyone save?

In your case, I don't follow why your friend cannot look after the babies while you are at work.

messageRe: Flexible working after maternity
Posted by amyw 04 April, 2012 08:51

Dulwich girl - working from home saves the commute! I don't think the op is proposing to work from home while looking after the kids.

Also I always thought lunch breaks would be better at home. Don't know why.

messageRe: Flexible working after maternity
Posted by flutterby 04 April, 2012 09:14

The cost of childcare for twin babies in my two closest nurseries is roughly 240 per week per child (for a 3 day week). 480 per week in total. I earn 400 per week. Working from home would mean I could reduce the childcare costs - family and friends have said they could take care of the babies whilst I'm on the premises working upstairs.

They don't feel confident or comfortable looking after twins with me being over an hour away.... juggling twin babies is pretty demanding. They would however do so for half a day in the knowledge that mum is close by.

It is not the right of the individual i.e. me to go back to work flexibly, but it is a statutory right for my employer to carefully consider my proposal - and they haven't done that. The reaction I got when I first muted this was 'we need bums on seats'! Where is the reasonable consideration in that?

messageRe: Flexible working after maternity
Posted by Fuschia 04 April, 2012 09:16

Dg: baby twins singlehanded for a long day is a major undertaking

messageRe: Flexible working after maternity
Posted by awilliams123 04 April, 2012 11:14

This happened with me, and I had to resign. Talking to people about it, many say I should have consulted a legal about it because although they gave me a 2 page letter full of reasons why I needed to be in the office 5 days a week, there were many other women in the office who were on a reduced work week because they had children. In my case, I had originally asked for 3 days a week, to which they said no and offered me 2 half days and 3 full days or 5 days from 9:30 to 4:30. Neither of these options worked for me 1) because the cost of childcare for half day is not far off the cost of a full day, 2) it still meant I would be doing nursery drop/commute/nursery pickup every day of the week but on the half days I would get an extra 3 hours with my child? Pointless. 3)Can't afford full-time nursery 4) don't want child going to nursery 5 days a week, just feels like he's being dumped all week.

I went back and said I would agree to a 4 day week (reluctantly, but like you, wanted to keep career going) and they refused, reverting back to the 2 original options they gave me. For a little perspective, I worked in architectural practice, my postion there was not one of terrible importance ie I was not managing a team or anything.

To this day I think they had no intention of accomodating me, but because they have to give me a job coming off maternity leave, I was offered something a couldn't/wouldn't take.

I think the law is only good paper on this matter, maybe not even that.

messageRe: Flexible working after maternity
Posted by minder 05 April, 2012 00:42

I went on maternity leave from Southwark Council with my first child, nearly 20 years ago. During my maternity leave they told me I had been made redundant from my old job.

On return, they put me in a different job and location, which I wasn't happy about. I fought it but in the end decided to resign (not saying you should).

There was no support for me then and we didn't have mobiles/internet for advice and working from home hadn't even been thought of.

Hope you can work this out with your employer.

messageRe: Flexible working after maternity
Posted by edanna 06 April, 2012 18:21

Flutterby, so sad for you that it's like this. It's so unfair when employers aren't even willing to try this kind of arrangement. Unfortunately what this comes down to is how much you like your job and want to keep your career going without a bigger gap. You're hardly going to be making any money, if you're paying childcare for your twins. If you can, maybe you could request a career break of a year or two then go back when you're getting some funded childcare or when friends and family members feel more confident. I realise this may be unaffordable but worth thinking about. I'm currently only making about 200 a month for three days a week after I've paid double childcare even getting gov funding for one child and it's hard not to wonder what the point is. But I'm doing it partly for my own sanity and partly to have a job still going when my son starts school and it all gets a bit more affordable. I wish I could tell you a way of making your employer more cooperative but it sounds like you've explored a lot of avenues. The people I know who've taken legal action in similar situations, even though they won, said it wasn't worth the emotional toll.

messageRe: Flexible working after maternity
Posted by flutterby 07 April, 2012 11:31

Thanks Edanna - Yes, all very disappointing really. The local authority are a big employer so really should be able to accommodate flexible working/home working.

I've made one last attempt to resolve this matter with them and have come up with another alternative, which means me working longer hours than my original proposal with some home working. I've also contacted ACAS re conciliation.

messageRe: Flexible working after maternity
Posted by rahrahrah 07 April, 2012 11:39

It sounds as though your employer has considered your request and offered you some options. There is no right to flexible working in law (only a requirement on employers to reasonably consider requests). Clearly I don't know the full circumstances, but it sounds as though they may have fulfilled their legal obligations. Tribunals rarely second guess an employers conclusions, merely that they have acted in good faith and followed a procedure. I have to say that suing a local authority (AKA local tax payers), would in myopinion, only be justifiable in a case were there was a blatant and quite extreme abuse of your rights.

messageRe: Flexible working after maternity
Posted by rahrahrah 07 April, 2012 12:15

Out of interest, what do you believe to be your employers motives for refusing your flexible working request?

messageRe: Flexible working after maternity
Posted by EmmaCC 09 April, 2012 12:54

A small point but please don't be put off getting legal advice or using the panel firm because of what you've read about associate solicitors- I'm a solicitor working in a completely different field but have just been made an associate 10 years post qualification- my job title previously was 'senior solicitor' - different firms use different terminology but usually the most junior solicitors are 'assistant solicitors'. If you can get sone advice free then you really should do this- even a chat over the phone with a solicitor should provide you with some ammunition to use with your employers...

I really don't understand anyone who posts on here defending the employer- what happened to solidarity?! It makes me so angry how difficult it is for 'middle income earners' to return to work cos of childcare costs- it seems that if you earn v little then you're encorouged with tax credits and if you earn loads then the childcare costs don't impact but for a lot of people in the middle there seems little incentive to go back. I know things have improved but they need to improve more so that women aren't faced with the dilemma of going back to work for no financial gain!

Anyway, rant over- I really, really hope you sort this out- good luck!x

messageRe: Flexible working after maternity
Posted by ClareC 09 April, 2012 19:36

EmmaCC Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> A small point but please don't be put off getting
> legal advice or using the panel firm because of
> what you've read about associate solicitors- I'm a
> solicitor working in a completely different field
> but have just been made an associate 10 years post
> qualification- my job title previously was 'senior
> solicitor' - different firms use different
> terminology but usually the most junior solicitors
> are 'assistant solicitors'. If you can get sone
> advice free then you really should do this- even a
> chat over the phone with a solicitor should
> provide you with some ammunition to use with your
> employers...
>
> I really don't understand anyone who posts on here
> defending the employer- what happened to
> solidarity?! It makes me so angry how difficult it
> is for 'middle income earners' to return to work
> cos of childcare costs- it seems that if you earn
> v little then you're encorouged with tax credits
> and if you earn loads then the childcare costs
> don't impact but for a lot of people in the middle
> there seems little incentive to go back. I know
> things have improved but they need to improve more
> so that women aren't faced with the dilemma of
> going back to work for no financial gain!
>
> Anyway, rant over- I really, really hope you sort
> this out- good luck!x

Totally agree!

messageRe: Flexible working after maternity
Posted by Vick 09 April, 2012 21:36

.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit was 2012:04:09:21:38:25 by Vick.

messageRe: Flexible working after maternity
Posted by rahrahrah 09 April, 2012 21:39

Firstly, I haven't defended anyone.
I have pointed out that the law only requires employers to consider flexible working requests.
You haven't actually said what you believe your employers motivation to be in refusing your request, but certainly haven't suggested that they've refused to consider any options.
From what you have said , the issue seems to be that you:
"...haven't been able to agree a flexible working solution that would satisfy you both".
It may be that such a solution doesn't exist. But it doesn't follow that if you are not satisfied, then the employer is invariably acting unreasonably.
I am all to aware of the issues surrounding childcare and the difficulty of making work pay when you're a mother on a middle income. I would strongly support the introduction of universal free childcare, which the institute for public policy research believes would actually bring money in to the exchequer. So there are economic as well as social and moral arguments for such a policy.
Solidarity for working mothers doesn't mean providing unquestioning support to anyone who is dissatisfied and wishes to sue local taxpayers, regardless of circumstance. The public sector ethos is also about solidarity, and I believe in that also.
[www.guardian.co.uk]



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit was 2012:04:09:21:40:41 by rahrahrah.

messageRe: Flexible working after maternity
Posted by awilliams123 10 April, 2012 12:26

Quote:
I have pointed out that the law only requires employers to consider flexible working requests.

This is exactly the problem.

During pregnancy, you're allowed plenty of time to attend to your antenatal needs, including classes that are good for both the body and soul. During maternity leave, the state and your employer support you by means of mat pay as well as the guarantee of having a job after a year. What is the point if it is actually (in some circumstances) impossible to go back to work? The hardest bit about the whole having kids things is not pregnacy, it's afterwards when all the really hard work begins. Having time to spend with and look after your child/children, and of course to look after your household is not a luxury that women want to make their employers 'pay' for. It's a necessity. And in an age where it's becoming more and more difficult to make do with one salary in a home, there needs to be stronger legislation to work with women coming off maternity leave.

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