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Q: If a full-time employee is currently on maternity leave, can they choose to return to work on a part-time basis? If she does return part-time, if she decides in a few years time, can she revert back to full-time?

A: Full-time employees have the right to have applications for flexible working considered by their employer if they are the parent of or care for a child less than six years of age, and want to change their hours in order to care for the child. The law extends this right to others who have responsibility for children, for example foster carers and guardians. Currently there is consideration being given by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, to extend this to all parents of children up to the age of 16.

Points to consider:

  • The employee needs to write to the employer with the proposed changes to her work pattern, when this will begin, and how any effects to the organisation will be overcome.
  • The employer then needs to follow the request up with a specific procedure with meetings, to discuss whether the change is viable and can be accommodated.
  • If the change is agreed on, it will be a permanent change to the contract unless it is agreed that it will only be for a specified time.
  • The employee is allowed to request a return to full-time, but this has to be given at least a year after the request for part-time work. However, the employer is under no obligation to agree and it will depend on the needs of the organisation.

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