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Unsure of your equality rights or the law? We can provide advice and assistance for people who feel they have been discriminated against.
 
 

Redundancy after maternity leave

Pregnancy at work

What you need to know

 

Redundancy on return from maternity leave
 

A redundancy situation is where there is either a closure of a business (or particular workplace) or a reduced need for employees to do work of a |particular kind. This might cover:
 

  • where there is no need for a particular job because, for example, of a reorganisation;
  • a need for job cuts because of the employer’s financial situation;
  • a reduction in work or clients, so there is less work to, or
  • a reorganisation due to having too many employees doing the same work.


Can my employer make me redundant when I return to work from maternity leave?

Yes, provided that:
 
  • There is a genuine redundancy situation, which is not caused by the fact you have been on maternity leave.
  • You are properly consulted; you must not have been left out of the consultation process because you were on maternity leave.
  • You are not chosen for redundancy because you were on maternity leave or for a reason relating to your leave.
  • The selection criteria and how they are assessed do not disadvantage you because of your maternity leave.
  • If the decision to make you redundant is made during your maternity leave, the selection criteria and how they are assessed also should not disadvantage you because of your pregnancy or pregnancy-related illness.
  • Your employer has properly considered whether there is a suitable alternative job for you. If your role was made redundant while you were on maternity leave you must be given first option on any suitable alternative work that is available.


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:
 

I was told on my return to work after maternity leave that my job is at risk of redundancy. What can I do?

If your role is made redundant during maternity leave, you must be given the first option on any suitable alternative work that is available. Your employer is legally required to consider you before any other redundant employee.

If you find out on return to work that your job was made redundant during your maternity leave you should remind your employer of your legal right to be offered any suitable alternative vacancy that exists.

It may be unlawful maternity discrimination  if, for example, you can show that there is not a genuine redundancy situation and you are made redundant because of your maternity leave, or for example, if you were not offered a suitable alternative vacancy and you can show that this was because you were on maternity leave. You should appeal and may want to consider bringing a grievance.
 

What rights do I have if my fixed-term contract comes to an end during my maternity leave?

Employees on fixed-term contracts have similar maternity and employment protection rights to permanent employees. If your fixed-term contract is not renewed, this is treated as a dismissal. If this occurs because of maternity leave this would be maternity discrimination . If you are made redundant, you must be offered suitable alternative work like permanent employees.
 

Is there any guidance on the steps my employer must take in a redundancy situation?

Yes. The Labour Relations Agency has developed a guide for employers which provides advice on handling a redundancy situation.

There is also information for employees setting out your entitlements on the NI Direct website
 

I think I am being made redundant because of taking maternity leave. What can I do?

If you can show that there is not a genuine redundancy situation and you are being made redundant because of your maternity leave, this would be maternity discrimination. It is advisable to appeal against your redundancy.

For your entitlements to redundancy pay, notice and time off to find a new job, see the NI Direct website

 

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. Your manager or Human Resources team may consult you in a telephone call or visit you at home. You must be given the same information as other employees.

Your employer must 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 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.

 

Must my employer tell me about alternative jobs if I am made redundant while on maternity leave?

You must be given the same access to information about suitable alternative work as other employees. If you are not told about a suitable alternative job because you are on maternity leave, this may 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
  • customer feedback.
 

Should my employer consider maternity leave when applying the redundancy selection criteria?

You must not be disadvantaged because of your maternity leave or by your pregnancy or pregnancy-related illness.  For example:
 

  • If sickness absence is taken into account, any pregnancy related absence should be ignored.
  • Your performance must not be marked down because of pregnancy related sickness or maternity leave.
  • You must not be marked down against any assessment criteria because you have fewer clients/customers or have not met targets because of your maternity leave.


If you score less well against the redundancy criteria because they are based on performance while you were on maternity leave, then this is likely to be maternity discrimination.

If you believe the redundancy selection criteria are discriminatory, you should explain to your employer why the criteria disadvantage you because of your pregnancy, pregnancy-related sickness or 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.

 

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.
 
 
 
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