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Help, an employee on maternity leave has asked if she can reduce her days from 5 to 4 when she returns to work. Do I have to say yes?

There is no obligation on agreeing to a flexible working request, however, before making any decision, there is a process to follow to ensure you give reasonable consideration to the request.

The first step is to meet with the employee to discuss the proposal so that you can fully understand the change being requested and consider the benefits to both the business and the employee to weigh up against any possible adverse impacts.

You have 3 months (or longer if you agree with the employee) from the date of the request to make a decision.

If you are happy to agree the request, then agree when that will start and provide confirmation in writing (ideally with a new contract) of the new working pattern.

If you are unsure as to whether the proposed changes would work, consider agreeing to a trial period so both the business and the employee can see that it will work long-term.

There are limited grounds on which an employer can refuse a flexible working request and so if you are minded to turn it down, then you need to ensure that it is for one of the eight legitimate business reasons.

If you require advice please get in touch with our employment department on 01246 932 100 or email us at

R / O: 26 Napier Court, Gander Lane, Barlborough, Chesterfield, S43 4PZ
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