Home Advice for Parents & CarersReturning to Work Requesting flexible work after maternity leave

Requesting flexible work after maternity leave

Last updated: 9 Apr 2021

Many women wish to return to work on a part-time or flexible basis after maternity leave. We have information about your rights to flexible work in our Flexible Working section, including a step by step guide to choosing a new work pattern.

If you wish to change or reduce your working hours on your return to work, you can make a statutory flexible working request. You do not have a right to change your hours, but if an employer unreasonably turns you down then you may have a claim. See our page on how do I ask to change my working hours?

It is important to allow sufficient time for any request to change your hours. Your employer may take up to three months to decide and it might take you more time to arrange childcare.

If your employer agrees for you to work part-time or on a flexible basis, you should keep the same terms and conditions as those that you had when you were full-time. For instance, if you used to manage a team of employees, but your employer says that you can no longer manage employees working part time, your employer may be treating you less favourably. See our article on changing from full to part time hours.

This is the case even if you switch to part-time work after your maternity leave (or another type of break), provided the break was for less than 12 months and you return to the same job or a job at the same levelSo it might be worth making sure that you are indeed back at work within 12 month. If you annual paid leave at the end of your maternity leave, you are considered in this situation to be back at work.

If your employer has refused your request to work part-time or flexibly, see our articles on returning to work at the end of maternity leave and how do I ask to change my working hours?


This advice applies in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. If you live in another part of the UK, the law may differ. Please call our helpline for more details

If you have further questions and would like to contact our advice team please use our advice contact form below or call us.

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Have you heard about your right to request flexible working? Watch our film to find out more.

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The information on the law contained on this site is provided free of charge and does not, and is not intended to, amount to legal advice to any person on a specific case or matter. If you are not a solicitor, you are advised to obtain specific legal advice about your case or matter and not to rely solely on this information. Law and guidance is changing regularly in this area.

We cannot provide advice on employment rights in Northern Ireland as the law is different. You can visit the Labour Relations Agency or call their helpline Workplace Information Service on 03300 555 300.