4th May 2001 at 01:00
Our deputy head has tentatively proposed working part-time on a job share when she returns from maternity leave. It is a tough job as her brief includes budget and discipline in a comprehensive. We like and respect her very much but we are all against the idea, including I think our head, though he is careful not to say too much. What do you think?

THE law and experience dictate that you should act with the utmost caution in this case and whatever you do make sure your local education authority is fully in support.

An employment tribunal recently overturned a governing body's decision to refuse a job-share to a head following maternity leave, and the governors' feelings could have been even stronger in the case of a head than yours appear to be.

The culture which supports equal opportunities for women with children to resume work if they wish on a part-time basis is immensely strong, and you would be risking heavy penalties and a lot of troubl if you resisted. The number of claims of breaches of equal opportunities legislation is large and increasing - I read in the press that in 1998 the number of queries on sex discrimination in employment referred to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service increased by more than 1,000 to 6,882.

Large sums of compensation are being awarded especially if the appellant seeks reinstatement, which employment tribunals cannot require.

Look on the bright side. Job shares can be tremendously successful if the people are right and the work properly planned, with particular attention to the caretaker arrangements in cases where they follow maternity leave. Faultless communication and some time overlap between the job sharers during the week seem crucial to success. There can be a bonus in that the job sharer will be able to manage the dual responsibilities better and probably feel less stress than the average member of senior management.

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