Am I being victimised? Ask the expert

I was a PA before going on maternity leave.  After taking OML and AML I returned to work part time seconded to a different department whilst the company was doing a restructure. I was told it was only for a few weeks, but it ended up being a few months till I went on maternity leave for the second time. After returning for a few months I fell pregnant again and decided to keep quiet for a bit because I didn’t want it to affect my job.  I was told that my job no longer existed and it had changed from a PA to an Admin Assistant (£6,000 less) doing more or less the same duties.  I was informed that I would be ringfenced for this position. I got the job and was told verbally that I got the job on the day I was leaving to take annual leave prior to maternity leave, I had nothing in writing etc until now.  I have been told that my contract started in October for this position, My argument is that I was on maternity leave so not in post, have not accepted the job and not had it writing etc.  Can they do this.? I believe I am being victimised and discriminated against as I have not been kept informed – no manager has contacted me, not even my new manager. I did have issues before with a colleague – these were not resolved and now she is my manager. I believe they thought I would not return so did not contact me.  I would have thought they would keep me informed, especially when I have told them on numerous occasions that I would be returning and wanted to be kept fully informed.

illustration showing woman surrounded by clouds


You have indicated that restructuring has been taking place at your company and your old role of PA has closed down. Legally, women who are on maternity leave or who are pregnant are entitled to be treated the same as other employees who are not on maternity leave. This includes:

– advising you in writing at the time (ie October when changes occurred not now in February) that your role as PA was at risk of redundancy not just mentioning it verbally

– individual consultation with your employer to discuss issues like the rationale for the job closure, alternatives to redundancy, redeployment opportunities, selection criteria for selecting individuals etc. At these consultation meetings you would have the right to be accompanied by a trade union rep or fellow colleague

Legally, women on maternity leave or pregnant must be given first refusal on any available alternative jobs over and above other staff who are not pregnant/on maternity leave.

Your employer does seem to have tried to find you an alternative role as an admin assistant. However, the new role has to be a suitable alternative ie appropriate to your skills and seniority level and it does not sound like there was any consultation or discussion around it, you were just transferred into the role which is at a far lower salary.

Perhaps they were trying to shelter you from the stresses of potential redundancy by slotting you in to what your employer saw as a similar role but still it does seem as though they have not followed the legal process correctly with you and that you may well have a legal case against them. I am frustrated that HR have not been more supportive (you mention them in your letter) since they should have been more involved in supporting you and the business.

I would suggest that you set up a time to talk to your HR department. If you can not go in person then at the least a telephone conversation to discuss the whole process, your concerns etc. If this does not lead to answers to your questions, then I would suggest that you contact ACAS who provide an impartial, free telephone advice line who may then be able to advise on whether you need to talk to a solicitor or not.

Their number is 08457 474747.

Whilst every care has been taken in compiling this answer, WorkingMums cannot be held responsible for any errors or omissions. This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific legal advice.

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