I think I am being made redundant because of my maternity leave. What can I do?
If you can show that there is not a genuine redundancy situation and you are made redundant because of your maternity leave, this would be unlawful maternity discrimination . You should appeal and may want to consider bringing a grievance.
The Equality Commission has provided answers to some frequently asked questions in its guidance for employers on managing redundancy for pregnant employees and those on maternity leave: Pregnancy and Maternity at Work- Guide for Employers (pdf)
There is also information for employees setting out your entitlements in the redundancy section of NI Direct's website
What should I do if my employer tells me that I may be made redundant?
It is advisable to ask the reason why you may be made redundant, to see if you can put forward reasons why you should not be made redundant. You could ask questions covering:
Why there is a redundancy situation.
Whether other employees are at risk; if there have been a lot of redundancies your employer is more likely to be able to show that the redundancies are genuine.
If you are the only employee at risk, the reason you were selected and what consideration was given to putting other employees at risk of redundancy.
When your employer first considered there was a redundancy situation.
Who was in the selection pool.
The selection criteria and how were they measured.
Your score, how it was assessed and how it compared to others put at risk.
Whether any employees at risk of redundancy have been offered alternative jobs, with details of the jobs. If any of the jobs would have been suitable for you, ask if you were considered and, if not, why not.
Must my employer consult me about a redundancy situation if I am on maternity leave?
Yes, your employer must consult you at the same time as other employees if you are on maternity leave. You could be consulted by a telephone call or your manager or someone from your Human Resources department may visit you at home. You must be given the same information as other employees.
Your employer should consult you about:
Reasons for redundancy and the posts affected.
Considering alternatives to redundancy, such as voluntary redundancies, or reduced working hours.
The selection criteria for those employees at risk of redundancy.
The way in which the employee’s redundancy selection assessment was carried out.
Any suitable alternative work.
If you are not consulted or told about a suitable alternative job because you are on maternity leave, this is likely to be maternity discrimination.
Do I need to go into work to attend consultation meetings on a redundancy situation?
If you are able to do so, you could ask to work a Keeping in Touch day in order to attend the meeting. If you do not want to attend, you should ask your employer to agree an alternative way of consulting you, for example:
by meeting you separately
by sending you all relevant documents and meeting notes
Failure to make alternative arrangements to consult you during your maternity leave, which disadvantages you, is likely to be maternity discrimination.
How should my employer choose who should be made redundant?
Your employer should decide which employees are doing similar work and put them in a redundancy pool to be considered for redundancy. The selection process to decide who is to be made redundant should be transparent, known by everyone it applies to and non-discriminatory.
The selection criteria must be objective and measurable. Typical criteria include:
individual skills, qualifications
performance or aptitude for work
attendance and absence record
disciplinary record, and
What type of selection criteria must my employer avoid using in a redundancy situation?
Your employer must not take into account any criteria that would disadvantage you because of your pregnancy, pregnancy-related sickness or maternity leave, for example:
If sickness absence is taken into account, any pregnancy-related absence should be ignored.
You should not be given a low score because you have fewer clients/customers or have not met targets because of your pregnancy or maternity leave.
If your performance was below your usual standard because of pregnancy-related sickness, this should not be taken into account
Can I be selected for redundancy for not meeting targets when I was on maternity leave?
You must not be disadvantaged because of your maternity leave. If you could not meet your targets because of maternity leave this is likely to be maternity discrimination.
Can I challenge the redundancy selection criteria if they are discriminatory?
Yes, if you believe the redundancy selection criteria are discriminatory, you should explain to your employer why the selection criteria disadvantage you because of your pregnancy, pregnancy-related illness or maternity leave. For example, they may disadvantage you because they are based on your failure to meet your targets because of maternity leave.
If the criteria do disadvantage you for any of these reasons your employer must adjust the criteria or the way you are scored against them, to ensure you are not disadvantaged.
Must my employer offer me a suitable alternative job if I am made redundant while on maternity leave?
Yes. If your role has become redundant during your maternity leave your employer is legally required to offer you a suitable alternative vacancy if one is available. If other employees are made redundant, you get preference over them.
For example, if you are not offered a suitable alternative job and the reason for this is because you cannot start until the end of your maternity leave, this would be maternity discrimination.
Do I have to apply for jobs I think are suitable alternatives in a redundancy situation?
No. Your employer must identify a suitable alternative job and offer it to you before other staff in the redundancy pool, without you having to apply for it.
Are my rights different if I am made redundant before I go on maternity leave or while I am on maternity leave?
Yes. If you are made redundant before your maternity leave you do not have an automatic entitlement to be offered suitable alternative work in preference to other employees. However, you must be considered for alternative work like other employees. But, if you are made redundant while you are on maternity leave, you must be offered any suitable alternative vacancy first – in preference to other redundant employees who are not on maternity leave.
What is suitable alternative work?
The alternative job must be suitable and appropriate for you in the circumstances. This means it must be no worse than your previous job in relation to location, terms, conditions and status.
If you are offered a job at a different location and this means additional childcare and travelling problems, it may not be classed as a suitable job for you. This means you could reject the job and still be entitled to a redundancy payment.
What happens if I refuse an offer of a suitable alternative job?
If you are offered a suitable alternative job and decide not to take it, and you are made redundant, your employer is not legally required to pay you redundancy pay.
The Equality Commission has provided answers to some frequently asked questions in its guidance for employers on managing redundancy for pregnant employees and those on maternity leave: