Query: I recently moved to a four-day week as I found the juggle of a full-time job and the rearing of two children too difficult. However, although my pay has been cut by a fifth to reflect the fact that I’m no longer working five days, I’m finding that I’m still expected to produce the same amount of work in four days as I did in five days. This seems very unfair and is putting me under enormous pressure. What can I do? Grace, Co Dublin
Answer: This is something we hear a lot – that is, when a person is offered a four-day week but is expected to do the work of a full week in that time. My first advice is to talk to your boss or human resources (HR) manager and explain to them that this is unsustainable and that as you say, is very unfair and putting you under enormous pressure.
In approaching your boss or the HR department, it is always best to put everything in writing. Also, go to your hiring manager with a solution to the issue you have.
For example you could identify tasks that can be taken off your desk or a new account which someone else could take over easily.
By providing a well-thought-out solution that suits your needs and also does not affect the bottom line for the company, you have a much better chance of getting a positive response from your employer.
Another question to address is whether or not you have a new contract since you have changed from full-time to part-time – and if your duties are laid out clearly in this regard.
You will need to go through this with your employer and highlight that you cannot possibly do a full-time job in part-time hours.
The Work Relations Commission (WRC) has some very clear guidelines for employers when an employee moves from full-time to part-time work. One of the considerations is how the applicant’s proposed revised hours will fit with the tasks of his or her job and how these tasks will be performed during the period of part-time work.
I would be querying my boss as to what considerations he or she has taken to allow for the fact that the role has changed from full-time to part-time.
If your boss does not make allowances for the fact that the role is now part-time, I would contact the WRC for advice on how to proceed. The information line for the WRC is 059-9178990. You can also visit the WRC’s website on workplacerelations.ie.
Overlooked for promotion
Query: I have worked with the same company for the last 10 years. Over the last four years, I have had three children – and taken six months maternity leave for each child. I don’t think this has gone down too well with my employer – I feel I have been an inconvenience to my employer since I started having children. My partner and I are not planning to have any more children. While I was away on maternity leave for my third child, a promotion came up in work which I would have been interested in applying for and for which I would also have had the necessary skills and experience. However, I was never informed of the promotion or given the opportunity to apply for it when on maternity leave. The job went to a colleague. I feel very aggrieved about this. Can I dispute this promotion? Eimear, Dublin 5
Answer: My first advice is to get as much information as possible in writing about this situation so that you have a paper trail and there is no dispute afterwards about who said what to whom. You say you felt that you have been an inconvenience to your employer – if you have any evidence to this effect, I would be collating this at this point.
If you feel that you had the necessary skills, experience and competencies to be considered for this particular role, I would inform the company in writing that you feel you have been discriminated against and would have liked the opportunity to have been considered for this position.
If you are not happy with the response from your human resources department, you could consider taking a case to the Workplace Relations Commission.
If it finds that you were discriminated against on the grounds of your gender by reason of your maternity leave – and contrary to Sections 6(2A) and Section 8(1) of the Employment Equality Acts, you could be due compensation.
Remote working issues
Query: My husband and I have four children. We will soon be moving from Dublin to the west of Ireland following a promotion he has been offered. I have worked as an accountant for a Dublin accountancy firm and my boss wants to keep me on in some shape or form. Much of the work I do can be produced from home, so I am considering working remotely. My boss is suggesting that I set myself up as a self-employed accountant – and that I could then work for the firm under an annual contract which would be renewed each year. I’m concerned though about the loss of my employment benefits such as pension, sick leave, holiday pay and private health insurance. Surely as I’m producing the same work for my employer (albeit remotely), he could continue to employ me as an employee? If not, is there any way I could protect the current employment benefits I have (such as sick leave and holiday leave and pension) if I set myself up as a self-employed accountant? My boss says that the pension scheme is only available to employees. Laura, Co Dublin
Answer: There are quite stringent laws as to whether you can be set up as self-employed or not in this instance.
The following are the rules to determine whether you are self employed or not:
A worker is normally an employee if they are directed by someone on how, when and where to work; have set working hours; have no personal financial risk relating to the work; receive a fixed wage; supply labour only; cannot subcontract the work; are covered under the employer’s insurance; and work for only one person or business.
A worker is normally self-employed if they control how, when and where the work is done; control their working hours; are exposed to financial risk; control costs and pricing; can hire other people to complete the job; provide their insurance cover; own their business; and can provide the same services to more than one person or business at the same time.
In your instance, it sounds like your employer is going to have to keep you on their books and maintain your employment contract.
It is pertinent to point out here that there is a talent shortage at the moment and there is a particular shortage of accountants in practice.
I would imagine that your employer will not want to lose you if you have the knowledge and experience to continue to do the job.
Accountancy is definitely one of those roles which can be done remotely and can be managed easily with good communication.
Employmum finds Slack is a great tool for managing and communicating with remote teams and this is something you could discuss with your employer.
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