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I have just been told today that my job role has been downgraded after a period of collective consultation and I am at risk of redundancy. I am two months into my maternity leave and work for a large multinational company. They only looked at a very small pool of roles to identify a suitable alternative and now I’m at risk I have been told to look at the internal website and apply for any roles I think are suitable. I understood that the onus was on the company to look for and offer a suitable alternative if there is one – and to be within the whole company, not just within one specialist area. I’m not sure I really am ready or able to be looking to try and find a new role so soon after having a baby. Additionally I am worried about the gap in my c.v if I accept redundancy now, only two months into maternity leave. Is there a way that my leaving date can be the end of my maternity period?
You will no doubt be aware that you are currently within what is known as the “protected period” which will continue until your maternity leave comes to an end. This places certain additional obligations on your employer.
Broadly speaking, where your role is made redundant whilst you are on maternity leave, your employer must offer you any suitable alternative vacancy that exists either with your employer or indeed with any associated employer or successor (for example, if the company is being taken over).
Your right to alternative employment arises as soon as your job is identified as redundant. Your employer does not have to offer you every suitable alternative role, but certainly you should not be required to engage in a selection process – if there is a suitable alternative vacancy then it should be offered to you, even if you are not the best candidate for the role as far as your employer is concerned.
So, if your employer is proposing to make you redundant whilst on maternity leave, it must ensure that it ascertains whether such vacancies exist (this should be a broad consideration as you suggest) and that you are offered any such role, not just invited to apply as your employer has done here. Were you to be dismissed as redundant without your employer complying with these obligations, that dismissal is likely to be automatically unfair.
As to when your leaving date will be if you are made redundant and there are no suitable alternative roles, that is really a matter for you and your employer to negotiate. If you have a relatively long notice period, you may be able to persuade your employer to allow you to notionally “work” your notice (albeit you will be on leave) so that your termination date is, say, three months hence.