Can an employee return to a pre-parental leave role part-time?
We have an employee due to return from maternity leave soon. Her role is full-time and she has asked to return part-time – two days per week. Her current replacement has stated they would be happy to stay on part-time as well, so we would like to approve this request to create a job-share.
We do however have concerns that if the replacement employee were to leave down the track, we may find it difficult to replace them due to the role being on a part-time basis. Is it possible to include something in the contract that this flexible working arrangement is only possible if we are able to recruit someone to fill the full-time requirement of the position?
You are only able to refuse a flexible work arrangement if you are unable to accommodate the request on reasonable business grounds.
You will need to confirm with your employee whether she is wanting to enter into a flexible work arrangement with the company where she will work part-time, or if she is seeking a permanent variation to her contract. This may have an effect on whether it will be reasonable for the company to refuse to accommodate the request. Regardless of whether the change is intended to be permanent or temporary, the arrangement should be set out in writing and signed by both you and the employee.
Entering into, and continuing, a flexible work arrangement is subject to the company’s business needs. It is also
subject to the employee having ongoing carer responsibilities. Therefore you could potentially agree to the arrangement while the replacement employee is willing to work the other days, and then re-negotiate if they wish to leave and you need to source someone else to complete the days.
There is no set time with how long a flexible work arrangement can continue but you could agree with the employee to specify a time by which she will return to her pre-maternity leave role. You may want to include review dates in the agreement where both you and the employee can give feedback on whether it is a suitable arrangement.