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Legal rights when returning after maternity leave

(22 Posts)
AngryEmployee Thu 09-Oct-03 17:12:52

Are there any Mumsnetters out there who can clarify a few issues for me?

I am due to return to work in 3.5 weeks time. I have just found out that my old part-time job has been given to someone else (an existing employee) and that instead that I am expected to do the job of someone I used to supervise, which was at a lower level to mine and was full-time. They've said that I will have additional duties which will make the job more high-level and that they will pass some of the lower level duties to someone who works for me.
I am totally unconvinced by this and am sure that they are trying to get me to do a full week's hours in fewer days. I have not had a job description and was not even offered the job. In fact, they weren't even going to tell me until 2 weeks before I returned. Are they allowed to do this? Is the onus on them to show exactly how this job can be done part time? Or do I have to return and show them that I can't do it?
I have not confirmed my return in writing, only verbally. Can I turn round and say that I have changed my mind about returning just yet (have only had 6 months off but am allowed to have 12 months as I had the baby after April 6th). This will be a pain re childcare commitments but would buy me some time and I'd then probably look for another job anyway. I think the whole thing stinks - I have been a loyal employee for 6 years and think I've been treated appallingly. I've only found out about this from colleagues who have decided their loyalties lie with me rather than with the company.

prufrock Thu 09-Oct-03 17:35:30

"An employee who resumes work after ordinary maternity leave is entitled
to return to the same job on the same terms and conditions of
employment as if she had not been absent, unless a redundancy situation
has arisen, in which case she is entitled to be offered a suitable alternative
vacancy (see Chapter 9 on redundancy).
An employee who is not given her job back at the end of ordinary
maternity leave is entitled to make a complaint of unfair dismissal to an
employment tribunal (see Chapter 12)."

Direct quote from dti website - so they have to give you your old job back. EXACTLY the same job, EXACTLY the same responsibilities, EXACTLY the same conditions.

If you take addtional mat leave, they only have to give equivalent - which seems what they are trying to do. Quote the dti guidelines at your HR dept.

bossykate Thu 09-Oct-03 17:53:48

hi there

prufrock is right. i would speak to hr asap. if you are unhappy at the outcome of the discussion, say you would like to take advice before agreeing.

you could also trying looking at Maternity Alliance and talking to the CAB.

good luck - this is a cr*p situation. go get 'em!

WideWebWitch Thu 09-Oct-03 18:11:49

Yep, I agree, they have to give you the same job. They must know this. I would make sure that from here on in *everything* is in writing. No, they are NOT allowed to demote you or change your terms and conditions. I'm not an employment law expert but have taken an employeer to tribunal for sex discrimination and constructive unfair dismissal. It's a long, hard expensive road and I wouldn't recommend it but employers mustn't be allowed to get away with this IMO. Is there a union? If so, get in touch asap and ask for their help. If not, start documenting *everything* (including your conversations with colleagues - dates, details etc) now. No, you don't have to return and show them you can't do it or anything - they have to give you your old job back. Make sure you re-confirm your job title etc when writing about your return. Do not accept this, oooh it makes me angry.

sis Thu 09-Oct-03 20:11:27

Hi AngryEmployee - what a nasty ploy your employeres have tried to use, I'm not surprised you are angry! as everyone says, you are entitled to to go back to the same job. Definately get in touch with the Maternity Alliance and as the others have said, put everything in writing from here on in.

If you do decide to go back on your original return date, only do the work of your original job, don't do the duties of the new job even for a day or two!

Hope they sort things out for you pretty quickly - I'm sure they will once you point out what the law says and that there is no upper limit on the employment tribunal award for sex discrimination!

Batters Thu 09-Oct-03 21:04:33

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Marina Thu 09-Oct-03 22:47:25

AngryEmployee, I'm pleased you've been given such good information. I think what they are trying to do is totally below the belt and I hope you can get a good resolution out of them. On behalf of mums working outside the home everywhere, make them squirm

bells2 Fri 10-Oct-03 10:52:11

Sounds outrageous to me. On the changing your mind thing, check with the Maternity Alliance but I would have thought you are perfectly entitled to choose to delay your return at this stage. Very best of luck.

LIZS Fri 10-Oct-03 11:15:18

Angryemployee,

I changed my mind at this point and negotiated a 5-year career break, as then Maternity leave was 6 months - no guarantee of a job but it meant should I return I would keep the years service I had already accrued towards holiday and pension. I did request a one-year break but that would have meant them guaranteeing to keep my position open which they did not want to do. Not all companies offer them and I'm not convinced that it is really worth the paper it is written on because the scheme is so vague , especially as I am not in a position to return at the end of 5 years anyway(I am living abroad).

You will also have accrued the equivalent holiday hours whilst you have been on leave so you could tag these onto your initial 6 months whilst this is sorted out or just extend it to the full 12 months (do you still have the same right to your job ?).

Sounds like your company is on very shaky ground so hold out for what you want. Don't let them lure you back and make your life miserable as I fear you may compromise your rights by doing so. The only thing that bothers me is that you haven't confirmed your intention to return in writing. The Maternity Alliance are really helpful so worth a call.

Good luck

twiglett Fri 10-Oct-03 11:29:29

message withdrawn

tigermoth Fri 10-Oct-03 13:39:03

dear angry employee, what an unfair situation for you. I think prufrock's dti quote sums up your position nicely. They cannot do this to you.

Just wonderered, if your employers believe they can get away with saying they have restructured the department, causing some redundancies? Do you think they see your old job as redundant? Are your sure that the person who has taken over your job is really doing exactly the same thing as you were? Worth finding this out, if you haven't already.

AngryEmployee Wed 22-Oct-03 21:22:48

Dear All

Thank you so much for your helpful advice and support.
Armed with the info from BK and Prufrock's recommended websites I then took legal advice (we have access to a legal helpline through our house insurance - only just realised this!) and they confirmed that my employers were totally in the wrong.
I then went back to my boss and informed him that I wanted my old job back and that I was refusing to take the new job (this was on the advice from the lawyer). Surprise surprise he obviously went straight to HR who must have told him to quickly rectify the situation, because he soon contacted me to tell me that I could have my old job back.

So all in all I've got what I wanted, although it would have been very nice in some ways to take them to the cleaners. I'll be watching my back once I return because I wouldn't put it past them to try some more dirty tricks. This time, however, I'll be prepared

AngryEmployee Wed 22-Oct-03 21:23:38

Dear All

Thank you so much for your helpful advice and support.
Armed with the info from BK and Prufrock's recommended websites I then took legal advice (we have access to a legal helpline through our house insurance - only just realised this!) and they confirmed that my employers were totally in the wrong.
I then went back to my boss and informed him that I wanted my old job back and that I was refusing to take the new job (this was on the advice from the lawyer). Surprise surprise he obviously went straight to HR who must have told him to quickly rectify the situation, because he soon contacted me to tell me that I could have my old job back.

So all in all I've got what I wanted, although it would have been very nice in some ways to take them to the cleaners. I'll be watching my back once I return because I wouldn't put it past them to try some more dirty tricks. This time, however, I'll be prepared

AngryEmployee Wed 22-Oct-03 21:24:48

Sorry for double post - computer very slow tonight.

Batters Thu 23-Oct-03 08:44:20

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

LIZS Thu 23-Oct-03 08:46:49

good for you sticking to your guns! Hope it goes well.

Marina Thu 23-Oct-03 20:33:06

Yes, I hope that this is the last of the matter for you AngryEmployee. Bad enough psyching yourself up for the return without all this! Glad you got a good result.

sis Fri 24-Oct-03 09:44:08

Well done and just in case they try anything on in the future, remember to keep diary notes of what has just happened - it can all be important evidence!

CountessDracula Fri 24-Oct-03 09:46:08

Well done Angry Employee!

WideWebWitch Fri 24-Oct-03 09:56:34

Glad to hear it, well done. I'd second the advice about keeping written dated details though just in case. Hope you don't ever need them though.

bossykate Fri 24-Oct-03 19:59:03

that is fantastic news, angryemployee, i'm really pleased for you! well done!

tigermoth Sat 25-Oct-03 19:23:35

Glad you have this sorted out - it shows them you're very on the ball, even though you are yet back in the office. Well done.

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