There is no legal right for an employee to return to work on reduced hours. However, under the NHS Scheme the NHS employer has a duty to facilitate this wherever possible, with the employee returning to work on different hours in the same job.
If this is not possible the employer must provide written, objectively justifiable, reasons for this. The employee will then either return to their original contract or to a post in the same grade with work of a similar nature and status to that which was held prior to their maternity absence.
If you plan to reduce your hours, you may need to renegotiate your job plan and consider the impact on your on-call availability.
Read more about job planning and use our resources
What about flexible working?
There is no legal right for an employee returning from maternity leave to change her hours or working conditions unless this is provided for in the contract of employment.
However, there is a right to request flexible working and employers must give such a request serious consideration, and only reject it if there is a good business reason to do so.
To qualify for this right the employee must have children aged 16 or under (or disabled children under the age of 18) and must have worked for that employer for 26 weeks continuously at the date of the application and have not made such a request in the previous 12 months.
The request needs to be made formally - in writing and must contain a statement that it is an application for flexible working under the flexible working provisions in the Employment Rights Act 1996.
Support from the BMA
We suggest you seek advice from the BMA to help ensure that your application contains all of the relevant information required by the Act and that it complies with the criteria. You may be further advised to seek their own legal advice where it is felt appropriate - call an adviser on 0300 123 1233.
If the request is refused the employer must give objectively justifiable reasons. The employee should be able to appeal a decision and if they do, the employer should convene an appeal hearing. If following a subsequent hearing the employee believes that the correct procedure has not been followed, or that the employer has made a decision based on incorrect facts, the employee could consider making a claim to an employment tribunal or in some cases a sex discrimination claim might be brought.
We suggest you seek advice from the BMA on your specific circumstances - we may further advise you to seek your own legal advice where it is felt appropriate.
If flexible hours are agreed on a temporary basis there will still be a right to return to the original contract at the end of the agreed period.
Read our guide to flexible training
Hear about real-life experiences of working flexibly