Employees returning to work from parental leave have a statutory right to request part-time work, but an employer is not obliged to automatically accept the request.
It is one of modern life’s great balancing acts: the need for employees to care for their children versus the legitimate business needs of their employers. Hopefully, in most cases, an accommodation is reached that is mutually acceptable, effectively reconciling potentially competing interests for the benefit of all.
An employer may, however, refuse an employee’s request for flexible working arrangements or part-time work if there are “reasonable business grounds” for doing so.
“Reasonable business grounds” includes circumstances where:
- the new working arrangements would be too costly for the employer;
- the employer has no capacity to change the working arrangements of other employees to accommodate the arrangements requested;
- it would be impractical to change the working arrangements of other employees or recruit new employees to accommodate the requested arrangements;
- the new working arrangements would be likely to result in a significant loss in efficiency or productivity; or
- the new working arrangements would be likely to have a significant impact on customer service.
By Michael Byrnes and Jacqui Ellis