Employers wedded to full-time work can be forced to think otherwise, but only through the tortuous route of indirect sex discrimination claims. To succeed a woman must prove to the satisfaction of an employment tribunal that she "could not comply" with her employer's insistence on full-time work. Usually the claim is only brought once the woman has been forced to resign in order to deal with her childcare commitments.
The Government has an opportunity to rectify this situation in the Fairness at Work Bill, shortly to begin its parliamentary passage. A chapter in that Bill on family-friendly working will contain some improvements to maternity and paternal leave arrangements. If the Government is really serious about making work more family-friendly, it should include a positive right for all workers to work flexibly, subject only to proof by the employer that the job must for good business reasons be performed full-time.
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