Introduction to this document

Maternity part-time work request - meeting invitation

It’s relatively common for employees on maternity leave to informally request to return to work on a part-time basis. If they do so, our letter enables you to arrange a meeting with them to discuss their request.

Flexible working procedure

Employees returning from maternity leave will normally qualify for the statutory right to request flexible working. They may therefore submit our Flexible Working Application Form and then you would deal with their request in the normal way, starting by arranging a meeting with them using our Flexible Working Request - Invitation to Meeting. However, in some cases, the employee will ignore that procedure and will simply write to you, or drop you an email, requesting a part-time working arrangement on their return. Unfortunately, in this scenario, you can’t just ignore that request, or tell them to go away and complete your form, because of the risk of an indirect sex discrimination claim.

Indirect sex discrimination

A refusal to permit a woman to return to work from maternity leave on a part-time basis may result in a claim of indirect sex discrimination as a provision requiring employees to work full time has a disproportionate adverse impact on women, as they’re more likely to be the primary child carers. If your full-time work requirement has a detrimental impact on the particular employee, you’d then need to be able to objectively justify this as being a proportionate means of meeting a legitimate business aim. Therefore, don’t make the mistake of assuming that, where an employee has requested to return to work from maternity leave on a part-time basis, you can just follow the flexible working process and turn their request down by citing one of the statutory business grounds for refusal, as that won’t stop an indirect sex discrimination claim. The business grounds that you relied on for rejecting the request must still be sufficient to establish your objective justification defence.

Letter contents

Our Maternity Part-Time Work Request – Meeting Invitation has been drafted to take account of the statutory flexible working provisions, and the Acas Code of Practice on Handling in a Reasonable Manner Requests to Work Flexibly, and therefore it invites the employee to a meeting to discuss their request, allows them to be accompanied by a work colleague and sets out what will happen following that meeting. We recommend you continue to treat the employee’s part-time work request as you would a statutory flexible working request, including giving them a right to appeal if you reject their request, so you can use our various flexible working letters for this. The purpose of the meeting is to see whether the part-time work request could work in practice and, if not, to explore alternative work patterns, such as different working days to the ones the employee has asked for. You should then properly consider the request, make a detailed practical business assessment on it and notify your decision to the employee (in writing) as soon as possible. There’s no need for a meeting though if you’re happy to agree to the part-time work request as it stands.