A consistent approach to flexible working requests in public sector

I used to work as a teacher in a primary school. I informed my Headteacher when I was only 8 weeks pregnant and indicated at this point that I would want to return to work on a part-time basis. Including my pregnancy and 12 months of maternity leave that gave her 20 months to accomodate my request. However, she told me even at that point that it would not be possible and that my best bet was to apply for part-time jobs elsewhere. I made the request again in writing whilst I was on maternity leave and again she said that she was unable to accomodate me because there were "too many part-time staff already". Other members of staff had been able to return to work on a part-time basis. I took this as the final answer because my focus was on being with my child, however I now wish I had sought further advice from my union. I handed in my notice and have been unable to find alternative employment despite applying for several roles. We also had to find money to pay back my occupational maternity pay which was close to £4,000 and has left us in a precarious financial position. Part-time teaching roles seem few and far between so I am uncertain whether or how I will be able to return to the profession. Another colleague who had a baby at the same time as me was also only offered a full-time position which she accepted, being promised she would be able to go part-time at some point. 14 months on this still hasn't happened. 


I contacted HR to say I didn't think I should be liable to pay back the full occupational maternity pay because I was being penalised for the school being unable to accomodate my part-time working request. They said they would look into it. My Headteacher contacted me and said she had verbally offered me part-time work on several occasions and I had turned it down which just wasn't true. HR told me that even if she could now offer it to me, I would still be liable for the £4k because I had handed in my notice. By that point I felt that I didn't want to work there because the trust had been broken and I thought there would be a sour atmosphere. 

Why the contribution is important

Being able to return to work on a part-time basis would have been ideal for our family situation, especially being employed by a council which describes themselves as "a family friendly employer". As it is we have lost out financially both through not earning and having to pay back almost £4,000 in occupational maternity pay.

by Teacher33 on March 15, 2018 at 01:15PM

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Average score : 5.0
Based on : 1 vote


  • Posted by Helenteacher March 16, 2018 at 14:56

    I find this really depressing. It is such a vulnerable time when you are facing having to leave your baby and return to work that I fear many parents are fobbed off very easily with excuses about why flexible working is not appropriate. Had you contacted your Union I believe you probably would’ve been given a part time role but would then have had to return to work under a cloud of bad feeling. Public sector settings should be leading the way in applying HR Policy with a transparent, consistent and human approach.
  • Posted by Gseh March 26, 2018 at 20:22

    This is very similar to what I’ve been through. I work in a school. My head teacher had decided that she wasn’t going to give me part time. I think schools are a particular bad place when going on maternity or returning from it as they have no HR on site and the schools manage to get away with treating us mothers unfairly.
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