Can my date of return from maternity leave be delayed?

My maternity leave has come to an end, but my employer is saying I have to delay my return because of office restructure. I agreed a date of return a while ago. Are they allowed to delay it?

Guidance on maternity leave states that when the employee notifies the employer of their pregnancy, assuming the employee does not state they wish to return on a specified date, the employer should write back setting out the return to work date. The employee is normally required to give eight weeks’ notice of a change to this date.

It is not normal practice for an employer to change the date, as the employee has the right to return to her original role, or if the employer can prove this is not practicable, the employee must be allowed to return to an alternative role with no less favourable terms and conditions.

It is unreasonable to expect an employee to postpone their return to work, when the employer has been aware of the employees return or could have taken reasonable steps to find out this information long in advance of the return date. The employer should be paying this employee if they are delaying her return date as she is ready and willing to work. It would be unlikely that they would pay her for consequential loss (for instance, any loss of a childcare deposit) although a tribunal may take this into account.

I would advise the employee to write to her employer stating that she had an agreed return to work date and is ready and willing to work, and point out the employer has had reasonable notice of her return, and on that basis she should be paid from the agreed return to work date as it is her right to return to work. She could also suggest working from home as a temporary measure.

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