Not allowed my old job back: ask the expert


I work for the NHS as a secretary and have done for the past five years, two months ago I returned to work after nine months of maternity leave on the date that I had given then nine months before so they had plenty of notice of my return.I no longer have a desk and I am desk hopping as my desk has been given to a new member of staff who started her job one week before I came back. So I am not doing the job I am employed to do and am just typing so in effect a support secretary as I cannot work for a consultant due to not having a workstation or telephone. I have talked to my line manager and they have given me a desk in a completely different office and right down the other end of the corridor away from all of my colleauges. This is not practical and I spent more time walking between the two offices then at my desk so I am back to desk hopping again.

I would like to know if this is discrimination?  I feel that it is, but don’t want to be seen as being dramatic.

Answer by Tracey Guest

When returning from a period of additional maternity leave you are entitled to return to the same job unless not reasonably practicable for you to do so (in which case you are entitled to a suitable alternative job). It seems unfair that a new starter who began a week before you returned has in effect taken your job and I believe this could amount to discrimination on the basis on your sex.

You could raise a grievance and see if that helps to resolve the situation. You can also submit a sex discrimination claim at the same time and while still employed. Alternatively you could resign and claim constructive unfair dismissal and sex discrimination. You have 3 months to bring a claim for sex discrimination and time is likely to run from when you returned to work. Please call Tracey Guest if you wish to discuss further.

Sarah Calderwood helped in the preparation of this answer.

Tracey GuestTracey Guest is head of employment and a partner at Slater Heelis in Manchester. She specialises in employment law and is also a working mum Meet our Panel of Experts

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  1. Anonymous says:
    03/07/2012 at 12:00 am  

    I actually hear about this happening to a lot of women returning to work after maternity leave. In fact two of the stories were from friends of mine. However, they did not do anything about it as its stressful, exhausting to deal with after just having a baby, which is why many employers get away with it…it’s so sad to hear about stories like this.

  2. Anonymous says:
    17/07/2012 at 12:00 am  

    I agree, something similar is happening to me at the moment. I’m actually too scared to bring it up with my boss or be seen to be discussing with HR as it impacts on his behaviour towards me. I feel that he’s not pleased to see me back from maternity (despite never having an issue with my performance) and would be glad of any excuse to get rid of me. Why is it still possible in 2012 for employers to get away with this?

  3. Anonymous says:
    29/11/2012 at 12:00 am  

    Had a brilliant day at work – was informed recently that I would need to give up my desk to a full timer who does the same work as me and I desk hop around the office – do you think I have a case, feeing very low and isolated.

    Editor: Could you send in your query via the Advice & Support/Q & A page box as we need more information on why this has happened, what hours you work and whether this is part of a pattern of discrimination for our expert to answer and we will then have your email to respond directly.

  4. Anonymous says:
    10/06/2013 at 12:00 am  

    I have the same problem – returned to work last week and am expected to desk hop. They have also taken on the person who was covering my maternity leave, hence I no longer have a desk. So my job is basically covered and my desk has gone, I have dropped 1 day a week so I understand there needs to be cover, but they have kept this person on 4 days a week. I feel like a spare part.

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