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I have just returned to work after 52 weeks off for maternity leave. I was due to be back in the summer and organised childcare etc for this. My boss told me that they would pay me maternity until November. I didn’t think this was right and said so, but she was insistent that they could claim it back. On coming back on my first day she told me that she had used all my holidays to cover my time off from August. She apparantly sent me an email in assuming it was ok which I never received. I would never have agreed to her using my holidays and wanted to be back in August as I have been paying out childcare and not doing anything and frankly falling into a little bit of a depression the last couple of months. I’m so confused I don’t know what I can do. I just know it feels wrong. She also wanted me to work 16 hours over 5 days even though I had told her I have arranged three full days of childcare.
You have raised two issues:
1. The annual leave
All employees accrue annual leave whilst on maternity leave and if the maternity leave bridges a ‘leave year’ most employment lawyers agree that this leave will automatically be carried over into the next leave year. After maternity leave you have the right to return to your job after 52 weeks. And subject to what your contract says (which I have not seen) your employer can require you to take holiday at certain times, but they must give you prior notice that they want you to do this. From what you say this procedure has not been followed. In practice many women returning from maternity leave choose and/or are encouraged by their employers to take their accrued holiday before returning to work. However, your employer’s conduct at best is misleading. Arguably the period from August to November was paid time off work granted by your employer at their discretion, and you still retain any annual leave you had before you started your maternity leave and annual leave accrued whilst you were on maternity leave. If the leave year is coming to an end I suggest you request to take this annual leave in the normal way.
2. Flexible Working
From your email I gather that your employer agreed to you returning to work three days, and that you relied on this agreement and booked three days of childcare. Now you are being told by your employer to come into work on five days a week? This looks like an imposed change by your employer, but I need more information about how and when your three days a week work pattern was agreed and exactly what has happened since. It may be that the above is discrimination because of your maternity leave and/or your childcare commitments. However, I would urge caution regarding next steps. What action you take will depend on the background to your case, what you want, your job and who your employer is etc. I suggest you write up a ‘time line’ of what has occurred to date and that you keep a record of any future events that occur at work. Do not keep this record at work.