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Return to work after AML - my role has changed?

(16 Posts)
Angel786 Wed 24-Aug-11 12:45:08

Apologies in advance for the length of this - q complicated. I was head of the legal team (managing two lawyers and a paralegal) reporting to CFO for several years, a top performer consistently achieving the highest rating in appraisals (which only 5-10% of the company are awarded) and long term bonus incentives (again only a handful of people selected for these). I resigned, discovered I was pregnant and retracted my resignation which the company accepted (I explained upfront I was pregnant so had changed my mind about moving to a new role in a new industry). BUT they also decided to hire a GC (partly because I was identified as a key person and therefore risk of me leaving again)...

GC started 4 months before my mat leave. I report to the GC but still managed the team below me. GC Was v lazy / uninterested in pretty much all aspects of our work for q some time but I believe stepped up three or four months after my mat leave began. GC hired a mat cover for me but the mat cover does not do what I did (does lower level work a few days a week and does not manage the team which GC now does).

I am due back at work in a few months and have been sorting my return to work plan. GC wanted to meet for a drink and at the very end of the conversation mentioned we're really looking forward to you coming back, take things slowly at first and don't worry about managing. I didn't say yes or no just that it sounded sensible. GC sent a follow up email saying as agreed I was coming back as the senior lawyer in the team. Not sure what this meant so asked by email saying we discussed GC managing the team initially while I transition back into work (initially a few days a week and full time three months later), what other changes did GC foresee to my role. GC has responded to say they will manage the team going forward.

As I have taken OML I feel like this is a belittling of my former role. I know I am entitled to job of the same pay if my old role is not available but here it seems like my old role is available with less responsibility? GC has given me the impression they would rather I am not around as they have said they could arrange meetings for me in the future if I want to chat to GCs in other industries, has excluded me from meetings which I should have been in prior to mat leave (and then apologised after I mention it) and misspells my name in Executive Reports.

Advice please!

HappyMummyOfOne Wed 24-Aug-11 17:03:12

I dont think theres much you can do if you took AML. They only have to give you the same role back if its feasible to do so and it sounds likes it not.

To be fair to your employer you planned to leave them but then stayed for the pregnancy benefits and stability, therefore its very reasonable that they want to ensure that the role is covered as they have no guarantee you still wont move jobs etc.

hairylights Wed 24-Aug-11 17:30:11

What is a GC!? I'm taking it that it's someone more senior than you. If thats the case, clearly a restructure took place before you went on leave. As you've taken aml I'd take it that you've returned on the same terms and conditions (hours and pay) as is required but that the team restructured before you left, and you've returned on that basis. So nothing you can really do about it.

Angel786 Wed 24-Aug-11 19:44:22

Yes, I completely understand the employer's predicament but to keep both of us on may not be as straightforward as they initially anticipated. A GC is a General Counsel which was pretty much what I was doing before but without the benefits! I am receiving the same pay but thought I was also entitled to a role of similar status (if the old role is not reasonably practicable then the alternative). Technically I will still have my old title but without management responsibilities...

hairylights Wed 24-Aug-11 19:50:26

I don't think status actually comes into it. The directgov site says "When returning to work after Ordinary Maternity Leave (the first 26 weeks of your Statutory Maternity Leave), you have a right to the same job and the same terms and conditions as if you hadn’t been away.

This also applies when you come back after Additional Maternity Leave (the last 26 weeks of your Statutory Maternity Leave). However, if your employer shows it is not reasonably practical to return to your original job (eg because the job no longer exists) you do not have the same right. In that case, you must be offered alternative work with terms and conditions as if you hadn’t been away."

Nothing about status, and nothing about the duties contained within a role -just about t&c - and as I understood it the GC was in post prior to your having left. You've come back to the same hob, same hours, same pay, but they have restructured duties by the look of things.

I can understand your frustration but I don't thunk there's anything you can do to change this.

Angel786 Wed 24-Aug-11 21:25:19

Thanks hairylights. I suppose I was hoping similar "terms and conditions" would also cover status as it is a bit demeaning to go back with a lesser status / responsibilities but you're right it is more a restructuring of my duties.

Anyhoo maybe I should just start ttc baby no 2 and get out of there pronto after a second mat leave!

gaaagh Thu 25-Aug-11 09:39:38

"I resigned, discovered I was pregnant and retracted my resignation which the company accepted (I explained upfront I was pregnant so had changed my mind about moving to a new role in a new industry)."

I'm shock they would take your resignation back for the reasons outlined - you must have a very good relationship with your supervisors! In any workplace I've ever been in, I've never seen anything like that happening.

Angel786 Thu 25-Aug-11 14:39:00

Ah thanks gaaagh, my supervisor was the CFO and he spoke to the CEO before agreeing. I think part of it was because I was a bit of a workaholic and top performer but also as the new lady coming in was clueless so to have me around for an extra 6 months gave her a smooth intro to the company and they didn't lose all of my knowledge...

Not many companies do things out of the goodness of their hearts wink

KatieMiddleton Sat 27-Aug-11 15:13:35

I disagree that you are not entitled to the same status upon your return. Of course you are. Before you went on maternity leave you were managing a team. On your return you are not. Whatever happened with resignations and new GC is irrelevant. If you come back before Ordinary Maternity Leave you are entitled to the exact same job. If during/after Additional Maternity Leave you are entitled to the same terms and conditions or better (equal or similar stature). By taking away your management responsibilities it is not the same job.

However, I would not make a big fuss but politely email back that you intend and expect to return to your old job and to resume managing your team as before. If the organisation needs to change the arrangement because your role is redundant they must follow the usual consultation processes and if they need to change due to a significant business reason they also have to explain and justify the decision.

You need to get this clear before you return if possible because once you're back much of your maternity related protections end (or at least it gets harder to argue).

flowery Sat 27-Aug-11 16:52:51

I agree with Katie that status is one of the things that should be maintained on your return. Status isn't automatically decreased just because you are no longer managing staff, but it often is.

Changing reporting relationships/structure of the team is something they need to do properly I agree, not just use the opportunity of your maternity leave to take your team away from you while you're not there.

StillSquiffy Mon 29-Aug-11 07:57:30

Regardless of the status argument, it is clear that GC is your sticking point, more than the company. And also clear that company may prefer to default to leaving GC in charge, regardless of your superiority of skills, because they do not yet know if you are going to return as the same professional dedicated person you were before you (a) resigned and (b) went off for AML. I think your suggestion of taking on a 'transitioning period' probably concerns them too - will you, for example, ask to stay on less days at the end of the transitioning period? That will be going through their minds. I know you are doing the best for your family but the firm will be asking what is best for the stability and focus of the team. So that's where you need to attack.

You need to pick up the phone and get yourself a face to face meeting with your CFO. Tell him how much you've missed the firm and how much you've missed the work itself. Tell him that you are really keen to pick up the management of the team and take them forward and that it is very important that you return to the same senior level you had before. Your CFO needs to remember why you were so much better than the GC and a face to face meeting is the only way to get commitment from them, because the GC will filter everything otherwise.

I wouldn't push too much on your legal rights unless the CFO himself blocks you on this.

KatieMiddleton Mon 29-Aug-11 11:58:16

shock I almost always agree with what you say StillSquiffy but on this occasion I really don't agree with the first part of the your post.

The GC should be irrelevant and the organisation should presume a maternity returner is returning the same "dedicated, professional person" they were before they went unless there is evidence this is not the case any more. And by evidence I mean misconduct on the part of the employee severe enough to warrant disciplinary action or where the individual has requested to step down/change their role substantially but even then they could still be deemed to be dedicated and professional.

The moral and legal points are that an employer should not make assumptions about an employee or substantial changes to their role without proper discussions/consultation. To do so purely based on the individual having taken AML or because someone else has done a good job during the individual's maternity leave is discrimination and illegal.

flowery Mon 29-Aug-11 15:06:45

Agree with Katie. Changes to structure should not be made because the company thinks the maternity returner might not be dedicated anymore. If there is a business reason for the change, fine, but do it properly and involving staff on maternity leave. If the person isn't dedicated on their return, deal with that at the time.

StillSquiffy Mon 29-Aug-11 21:43:05

I didn't mean to imply that there was anything OK or right about the way they are acting, I was merely trying to point out the thinking going behind what they are doing. And I think the way to deal with it is by liaising directly with the person making the decisions. I think attacking their mindset works better in the long run than just challenging the legal position from the off. But I obviously worded that very badly indeed....

KatieMiddleton Mon 29-Aug-11 22:26:55

Phew! <order restored>

StillSquiffy Mon 29-Aug-11 22:43:05

smile

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