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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.
 
 

Returning to your job

After maternity leave
Pregnancy at work

What you need to know

 

Returning to your job, pay rises, health and safety, breastfeeding


What job am I entitled to return to before or at the end of 26 weeks (ordinary maternity leave)?

Your employer is legally required to ensure that you return to exactly the same job that you did before the start of your maternity leave. The terms of your employment must be the same as they would have been, had you not been on maternity leave. 

If you are not allowed to return to the same job and this is because of your maternity leave (for example the job has been given to your maternity cover) this would be maternity discrimination.


What job am I entitled to return to after more than 26 weeks’ maternity leave (additional maternity leave)?

If you return to work after more than 26 weeks’ leave (additional maternity leave) your employer is legally required to ensure that you return to the same job, unless this is not reasonably practicable. Your employer must first consider whether you can return to the same job. If there is a very good reason why your old job is no longer available (for example because the business has changed) your employer must offer you a suitable alternative job.

 A suitable alternative job must be:
 
  • Suitable and appropriate, for example, it should not be at a different location, which is difficult to travel to.
  • On terms and conditions of employment, which are ‘no less favourable’ than your previous job.

If your employer doesn’t offer you the same job or a suitable alternative job because you have been on maternity leave, then this is maternity discrimination .

Can my employer keep my maternity cover in my job and put me in a different role?

No. Your employer must not move you to a different job because they prefer the person they have employed to cover your maternity leave. This would be maternity discrimination.
 

Do I have the right to return to the same job if I have added another type of leave to the end of my OML?

This will depend on what kind of leave you take and how much leave you take in total. For example, if you return to work after adding parental leave of four weeks or less at the end of your ordinary maternity leave (OML) you will still be entitled to return to the same job. However, if you return to work after adding more than four weeks of parental leave at the end of your ordinary maternity leave you are treated in the same way as if you returned from additional maternity leave. This means that if your employer can show that it is not reasonably practicable to give you the same job, you must be offered a suitable alternative.

Taking other kinds of statutory family leave at the end of your ordinary maternity leave can affect your right to return to the same job and you should take advice before doing so.
 

Can my employer offer me a different job on my return from maternity leave due to restructure of the business?

It depends if you are returning to work after ordinary maternity leave or additional maternity leave.

If you are returning after ordinary maternity leave you have to be allowed to return to the same job. If you are returning after additional maternity leave, then the changes in the business may mean it is not reasonably practicable for you to return to the same job. Your employer is then allowed to offer you a suitable alternative job instead. The position is different if your job is redundant.
 

I have returned to work after maternity leave to a different job role. Is this allowed?

If you are given a different job on your return to work and this is partly or wholly due to your absence on maternity leave, this would be maternity discrimination if the new job is worse than your previous job.

If you returned after ordinary maternity leave you have a legal right to return to the same job.

If you returned after additional maternity leave you have a legal right to return to the same job unless it is not reasonably practical, in which case your employer is allowed to offer a suitable alternative job instead.
 

I have returned to work and some of my job responsibilities have been removed. What can I do?

If you have returned to work with the same job title, pay and terms and conditions but some of your responsibilities have been given to other employees this is likely to be maternity discrimination , if the reason is because you were on maternity leave.

First, it is advisable to talk to your employer and ask that you have all your responsibilities back. If this does not happen you could raise a grievance or, if you feel it is impossible to remain with your employer, resign and claim that you have been constructively dismissed.

You should take legal advice before claiming constructive dismissal, as it is difficult to prove. You do not have to resign to bring a discrimination claim against your employer.
 

Am I entitled to a pay rise on my return from maternity leave?

Yes, if other employees are given a pay rise. It would be maternity discrimination  to refuse to give you a pay rise because you were on maternity leave.
 

Do I have to give notice if I decide not to return to work after maternity leave?

You must give your employer notice if you are not intending to return. The notice period will be set out in your contract.

This does not apply if you can show that you resigned because of your employer’s behaviour if this amounts to a serious breach of your contract, such as discriminatory treatment. If you resign in these circumstances, and claim constructive dismissal, you can resign either with notice or without giving notice. 
 

Am I entitled to notice pay if I am dismissed when I am due to return from maternity leave?

The law is not clear on your entitlement to notice pay. In this instance we suggest taking legal advice.
 

Does my employer need to protect my health and safety if I am breastfeeding when I return to work?

Yes, your employer must consider any risks to you or your baby identified by a workplace risk assessment and take reasonable action to remove or reduce them. You must, however, first notify your employer in writing that you are breastfeeding.

Your employer must:
 

  • First consider whether it is possible to remove the risk by, for example,
  • altering your working conditions or hours of work.
  • Second, if this does not remove the risk, offer you suitable alternative work.
  • Third, if there is no suitable alternative work, suspend you on full pay.
 

What are the risks for breastfeeding mothers?

Risks for breastfeeding mothers include, working with organic mercury, radioactive material and exposure to lead. If you are concerned you can contact the Health and Safety Executive
 

Have I a legal right to take time off to breastfeed during my working hours?

No, there is no legal right to time off to breastfeed or for rest periods.

However, a refusal to adapt working hours could be indirect sex discrimination unless the employer can show the refusal is justified by the needs of the business.
 

Does my employer have to provide somewhere for me to rest when I am breastfeeding?

Yes, your employer is legally required to provide suitable facilities for breastfeeding mothers to rest. See the Health and Safety Executive's website for further details. 
 
 
 
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