If an employee requests a change of working pattern this will be a permanent contractual change unless you agree otherwise (for example, agreeing the change for a limited period of time). Changing the working pattern without the employee’s agreement will be a breach of contract.
In Gregory v Royal Mail Group Ltd  the employee worked as a postman, was separated from his wife and had an access arrangement in place in relation to his child. He wanted to have weekends free to see his child. He made a flexible working request to work week days only, and this was agreed.
A restructuring then took place, and all employees were asked to complete a questionnaire to indicate their preferred working pattern. The employee was on leave at the time so his trade union representative completed it for him. Unfortunately, the trade union representative wrongly stated that the employee would be willing to work on Saturdays.
On returning from leave the employee found that he was now working 3 Saturdays a month. He submitted a flexible working request which was rejected, and his appeal against this decision was also rejected.
The employer sought to impose the Saturday working. Notably, the employer had preserved the flexible working arrangement previously in place before the restructure for other employees, but not the Claimant.
The employee therefore resigned, successfully claimed constructive dismissal and was awarded just over £22,000 in compensation.
- Any employee with at least 26 weeks’ service is allowed to make a flexible working request, provided they have not made a similar request in the last 12 months. You must consider the request carefully, only reject it for a valid reason (from one of the reasons prescribed by statute) and you must respond to the employee’s request within 3 months.
- If an employee has been granted flexible working, you cannot change their working pattern back to what it was unless you had specifically agreed that the change was for a limited period of time.
For employment law matters covering shift change patterns or other changes to working practices then please contact Sarah Tahamtani on firstname.lastname@example.org
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