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Q&A about employment rights after maternity leave - ANSWERS BACK

(59 Posts)
RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 19-Mar-13 17:31:18

A recent survey reported in The Guardian found that one in seven women is made redundant after taking maternity leave and many more return to find their jobs have changed; their hours cut or they've been demoted. This discussion thread showed that many mumsnetters have first hand experience of this and we thought it would be helpful to run a Q&A with an employment lawyer specifically about discrimination against women returning to work after maternity leave.

Natasha Joffe and Lydia Seymour are barristers who specialise in employment and discrimination law. They practise from Outer Temple Chambers and have a particular interest in parental rights at work.

Send your questions to Natasha and Lydia before the end of Monday 25 March and we'll post up their answers on 12 April.

Oodsigma Tue 19-Mar-13 17:48:59

It's common in my organisation to restructure. I was given a job on my return last time as my job disappeared. There were other jobs i mau have applied for had I known about them. I was told my manager should have been updating me but my manager was moved and my new one only took me a month before I returned so was managerless for a couple of months.

They are currently reorganising again while I'm on maternity leave. Internal jobs are advertised via internal email which I no longer have access to, I have requested updates from my supervisor but so far have only had brief conversations while I was off sick and nothing in the month I've been on maternity. I am also reluctant to nag for job details as if I was unsuccessful I'd prefer to return to my current post.

What's the legal stance on receiving information on jobs available and restructures whilst off?

exiledmancityfan Wed 20-Mar-13 19:02:12

You mean that some people actually have their rights taken notice of. Tell me where these employers are and I will stop fighting mine.

MTBMummy Thu 21-Mar-13 10:57:21

Prior to falling pregnant I was rapidly moving up the ranks in my team, and gaining many qualifications, I worked as a consultant that was deployed by my company to others.

When I returned to work after 6 months leave, again full time, I suddenly wasn't assigned any work, which meant I wasn't generating any income, the work distribution was handled by my manager, so I took the initiative and spoke to the sales guys to get them to sell my skills in particular, even when this happened and I'd engaged with the customers from the start of the sales process I was taken off the actual work by my manager and the work was given to another colleague.

So while my base salary didn't change, I wasn't earning any commission so my salary took a significant hit.

I tried raising it with HR and my manager and my manager said he had no confidence in my abilities now I was a mum and HR said I was being paranoid.

I was then placed on a disciplinary because I wasn't doing any chargable work, by the manager who distributed our work load. I disputed this, but got no support from HR even though I had no control over getting the work.
In the end I decided to leave as I was so unhappy.

Is what they did legal?

gilly86 Thu 21-Mar-13 11:10:49

I have a question as I have been given conflicting information from different people.

My husband and I are currently trying to conceive.

We are also constantly on the look out for jobs elsewhere to move back to another part of the country where all of our family and friends live. We have no family or friends where we live right now <sad face> we are only here because we both have good, well paid jobs.

If we had a baby we would obviously like to relocate ASAP so that we could be around our family and friends.

The question is, if I took maternity leave from my employer (who I have been employed by for over 3 years) do I have to return to work or can I hand in my notice?

It may be that during the pregnancy/maternity leave we decide to move away.. Can I take maternity and hand my notice in at the end of it?
I've heard that you can't do that and you HAVE to return to work for X amount of time or pay back you maternity pay?

princesssugar Thu 21-Mar-13 11:54:53

I am currently on maternity leave and have been told that our department of 3 is looking at a redundancy. There was the same issue last year but they decided not to make any one redundant because two people were due to go on maternity leave and one member left. 2 full time maternity covers were recruited but also a 3rd permanent full timer was recruited to a department that was already overstaffed. I think they should have recruited a part timer which would have solved the issue. The new full timer is on a smaller pay grade.

Did they do anything wrong? Also i am not due back to work until after the decision, do i have any protection through being on maternity leave?

Oodsigma Thu 21-Mar-13 12:03:30

gilly you pay back occupational maternity pay(usually) but not SMP.

bunnys Thu 21-Mar-13 16:20:45

Am currently on maternity and my co has been taken over. If i was made redundant before I go back what is the redundancy pay based on?- the salary before I was on maternity? What is the statutory package?

monniemae Thu 21-Mar-13 17:26:25

I am on a fixed term contract of 12 months, I'm due a baby in September which will be 8-9 months into the contract (I was working at the same company previously on a different project). What are my rights to maternity pay and with regard to returning to work (during or after additional maternity leave)?

From what I can tell they'll need to offer me SMP and offer me a job for the remainder of my (unworked) contract once I finish my leave but I want to check this before speaking to them as I know they're going to try saying they aren't liable for anything.

They also forced me to take a week's "break" over christmas, by ending my previous contract, leaving me to use leftover holiday, then restarting a new contract in January (after which I discovered I was pregnant).

They will argue this break means I haven't been employed by them for 26 weeks by the time it's 14 weeks before my due date, or whatever the rule is.

If in fact I'm not eligible for SMP from them, presumably I'd still qualify for MA but not the 6 weeks at 90%?

Thank you

Bluestorm Thu 21-Mar-13 18:48:16

Hi everyone, this is the first time i have posted. I am a mum of 3 children aged 4,2 and a baby. I am currently on maternity leave and I am desperate to reduce my hours when I return to work but I have been told if I ask for a change of hours I will automatically be giving up my current rota and be forced to work a rota with night shifts.
After my last period of maternity leave I requested flexible working a reduction from 30 hours per week to 28 hours per week, which after appeal was granted but my rota changed from no nightshifts to 22 over 8 weeks which was completely unworkable for me! I then had to go through a lengthly grievance process before my original 30 hour shift pattern was reinstated! I have worked for the company(NHS) for 5 years and have never worked a night shifts. By requesting flexible working would my employer legally be able to force me to accept a rota with night shifts? So sorry for the long post! Ideally I would like to reduce to 24 hours per week with no night shifts. I have several colleagues whom work this type of shift pattern, would my employer be able to refuse my request? Thank you so much for any advice.

NinaB27 Thu 21-Mar-13 20:03:11

It's not such a big thing compared with what others appear to be going through - I hope you all get sorted - but, I am just finishing maternity leave and taking ordinary leave for four weeks. My unpaid leave finishes on 23rd of the month, so I should have been paid for the last week of march as I will be on normal annual leave. We are paid on 22nd for the calendar month. My HR dept are saying that because I am returning after payroll has run for the month that they won't pay me until the following month. It seems a small thing but I was relying on this money to make the initial payment to my childminder and I think it is unfair that I am being made to wait for holiday pay just because I have been on maternity leave.

Totallyataloss Thu 21-Mar-13 21:15:15

I came back from maternity leave about 2 years ago and successfully changed to part time hours with no problems at all. Since then, there have been a lot of changes (cost reductions etc) in my organisation and my division has been moved into a sub-regional division so I now belong to a different part of the organisation. I am 6 months pregnant and due to leave on maternity at the end of May and I'm really concerned that I will be made redundant either whilst on maternity (which must be hard as they are covering my job whilst I am away) or when I come back. I have told them I will just take the 26 weeks but I know I will take the full year. Is there anything I can do to stop this happening to me? I don't love my job but it's super convenient and I work at home for the most part which makes my life really a lot easier than it could be...

Thanks!

suresure Thu 21-Mar-13 22:51:47

I am returning from a year's maternity leave on Monday. While I have been away, the team got a new manager and she restructured the team. I now report not to her, but to a level below - someone who used to be my peer in the team.

I was 'consulted' about the change but this consisted of a telephone call with information about the change only sent to me a few hours before. I expressed my negative views about the change in reporting level and the changed job description to - I think - a simplified and more junior job. The manager agreed to change the job title and to consider my views. A second phone call a week or two later said the move would go ahead. The money remains the same.

Was the organisation allowed to do this? I feel demoted. And, I feel it was poorly handled given that I was dealing with a seriously ill child and the death of my father throughout. At no time did I say I accepted the move but HR have sent forms asking me to sign that I agree with the change. If I sign them, will I lose any right of legal appeal?

Lucilulondon Thu 21-Mar-13 23:56:00

Shortly after i left on maternity leave my boss emailed me for a meeting, at which she told me she'd be recruiting a new director to head the team that i had previously been head of. They have since recruited to the post and Im shortly to go back. The new director pretty much has my job description and will now be attending the meetings i used to attend, do the work i did, run the team, even has my office (i'll now be open plan) and access to IT drives reserved for senior managers. Basically i have been demoted but the money is still the same.
I didnt complain when she first told me this would happen, as i'd only just had my baby and my mind was elsewhere. Im thinking i should request my job description is reviewed (as they havent acknowledged it must have changed). Should i do this?? Or does this just formalise my demotion?
I feel like i have been demoted and this will seriously affect my career - i took the job based in the fact i was in charge of the team and attended the senior meetings - being made more junior in my work will affect my CV and my enjoyment of the work. What should i do next?!

AmyMcM Fri 22-Mar-13 00:05:49

I love my job and always intended to return after maternity leave. When my daughter was born she had to be resuscitated and following an MRI we discovered that she is extremely poorly, will not get better and has 'complex needs' and various issues that are 'life limiting' along with being visually impaired. She cannot be left with anyone, except my husband, myself or a nurse (trained in resus/choking, tube feeding), as a result I sadly cannot return to work. We also spend a lot of time in medical appointments. Do I still have to pay back maternity pay? And when do I need to notify them of my intentions (due back 01/07/13)?

sepsep Fri 22-Mar-13 06:12:58

Hi, I work in the nhs in mental health 34 hours a week. I'm about to go on maternity leave. I indicated to my manager I would want to reduce my hours when I return. She said this may not be possible as then these hours would be 'lost' by the team. I know some colleagues (without children) have asked to reduce their hours recently and been refused. Do I have more rights to push for reduced hours if its due to having a baby? Thanks

Hannahmy21 Fri 22-Mar-13 06:21:54

Whilst on maternity leave and on statutory maternity pay, what is the position re payment for a contractual notice period should the employee resign to join a competitor whilst on maternity leave?

Is the employee entitled to their full salary during the contractual notice period on the basis that were the employee not on maternity leave, upon resigning, the employer would ordinarily ask the employee to leave the office for a period of gardening leave and be paid in lieu of notice?

Chesterado Fri 22-Mar-13 09:11:17

My employer recently announced (without consultation or changing our contracts) that the majority of our holidays will now be fixed with a three week shutdown in the summer and a week at Easter and a week at Christmas. As my holiday is pro rata'd due to part time hours, when I return to work I will only have three days flexible holiday to take during the rest of the year, compared to full time workers who will have over six, because a disproportionately higher amount of my annual leave will be fixed. This leaves me with almost no option to take time off at half term etc. The argument that this is effectively discriminating against women on flexible working arrangements is falling on deaf ears - is there any legal basis to argue against this other than voting with my feet and leaving?

Confused40 Fri 22-Mar-13 09:15:18

Am studying on an accredited BACP course, in my final year. I will not be able to finish the course, and will have time to make up due to extenuating circumstances, eg baby due in late May early June. Course provider say I have to come back the next year, to make up hours, and pay extra. BACP say under equalities act, and bearing in mind sexual discrimination, the course provider should take my circumstances into consideration, and I should not be disadvantaged in any way.
After speaking with the course provider, I am not clear if I will have to return the following year, as the university exam board don't make any decision until late June, when the course ends.
What are my rights please?

CMMM Fri 22-Mar-13 09:24:34

My maternity leave finishes (1 year) at the end of July, it is a fairly senior role with 3 months notice. I will in all probability end up resigning as my role is full on, full time with lots of travel and overnight stays, even if the business were to agree to it being 3 days per week it would still mean long hours and lots of travel, necessitating a live in nanny which neither myself or husband want. Do I have to have resolved whether I am going back and under what circumstances or resigned within 8 weeks of my return date or does my 3 month notice period override this?

Note I assume I would have nothing to pay back as the company only paid statutory apart from my car allowance and my pension whilst I have been off. Many thanks

Chubbybuns5 Fri 22-Mar-13 09:33:40

I run my own business with my husband and have been claiming MA, I have had to re-open our business, as I am the chef and this is the most money saving i would of loved more than 11 weeks with my little one, but husband now looks after baby. I have only only claimed 16 weeks MA, and have read that the father can claim up to 26 weeks of my MA. Numerous phone calls and the department for benefits says he can only do this if he is employed and not self employed.
Is this right? Seems mad we pay our NI and tax just like everyone else and yet we don't have the same entitlements.

EmmyLH Fri 22-Mar-13 09:55:30

Before leaving for maternity leave, in a meeting my manager informed me the 10 months I was taking was 'excessive' and unusual for the industry I'm in (even though I'm a PA). Whilst on leave, a colleague told me the COO had told her in passing that if one of the other pregnant employees took a year's maternity her career at the firm was over.

In my back to work interview, my line manager wasn't present and the COO told me I was being assigned a new job because it was unfair to disrupt my old team any further. Though same pay, I strongly feel the new job isn't as interesting or at the same level as the last job (they dispute this obviously). I tried to say i disagreed but was told I was being difficult and inflexible and i was employed as support and could be anywhere. Is this a good enough reason to assign me elsewhere? I strongly feel I am being 'punished' for taking so much leave. I also asked to bring forward my core hours by 30 mins earlier for the nursery pick up (I'm still full time) and this was also refused which was really hard for me to contest because I haven 't worked with my new team and didn't feel I could put forward a good case (whereas it would have fitted really well with my old team). The whole BTW interview was a disaster, lots of statements thrown around that were half retracted later after they called an HR Consultant, for example being told i would have to take A/L if my child was sick etc. The experience was so awful I am looking for a new job because I feel so forced out and 'redundant' as an employee.

Even yesterday, I had to listen to 2 colleagues talking about how brilliant a candidate they interviewed was but the only downside being she had just had a baby. It's so depressing.

toadmum Fri 22-Mar-13 11:24:05

I am currently working on a fixed term (year long)contract covering for someones maternity. The contract ends in May and the lady I'm covering for is not returning, she has handed her notice in. I have been informed that it will go to interview in May/June and they will have to advertise but I'm welcome to apply. I believe I'm in the early stages of pregnancy at the moment and I'm unsure what I should do. Do I keep quiet about my pregnancy and go for the interview to tell them afterwards? I do worry that if I do have to take maternity leave at the end of this year I won't get paid and may get made redundant - I'd just like to know my rights here please. Many thanks

MamaOtis Fri 22-Mar-13 14:04:19

I am due to return to work in the next month after taking 52 weeks maternity leave. My current contract of employment is 4 days a week which I negotiated down from 5 following the birth of my first child 4 1/2 years ago. This change to my working hours was made a permanent amendment to my contract at the time. I have had minimal contact with my employer during my maternity leave. Upon phoning my manager 3 months prior to my return to work to arrange some KIT days, I was informed of changes to the business which my manager felt would make it impossible for me to continue in my role under my current contract of 4 days. He explained that our client wanted a full time team so it was highly unlikely I'd be able to return 4 days a week. I was told HR would contact me to discuss my return to work further.

A month passed and no further contact so I emailed HR confirming my return date and asking for clarification on my role, particularly as I have already arranged childcare for my two small children based on me returning 4 days a week. This prompted a meeting and in that meeting I was told I could either accept the full time role or resign. It was explained to me that this is not a redundancy situation as my role still exists, although the scope and responsibilties of it are now very different. I would like to know if I have a case for pursuing a redundancy here. It seems very unfair that my employer can simply change the TS and Cs of my contract without consultation or my agreement. I certainly don't intend to reisng but could they dismiss me for not accepting the full time role and if so, would I have a case for unfair dismissal. I would appreciate some advice on next steps. I am particularly concerned about the childcare I have already booked as I don't want to get into a situation where I am paying for childcare I don't need because my employer is dragging their feet!

Truebecca Fri 22-Mar-13 14:57:50

I'm due to return to my job after taking 39 weeks mat leave and I've asked my employer to consider my flexible working request of three days ( I was full time)
They have said yes happy for me to come back three days but they want to put me on a six month contract. I was employed full time with two months notice period. I'm going to be doing my old job essentially but they are also planning to keep the person on who covered my job whilst I was on leave. They are giving them one of my 'old' responsibilities on a six month contract also.
I am concerned that this new contract is a way of managing me out the business! Is this normal practice, do I have to accept it or do I have any right to voice my concerns?
Thanks

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