I accepted a 12-month secondment. The understanding is that my employers are hoping the role will become permanent, but currently the funding is just for 12 months so if it is not signed off as a permanent role I will return to my original job. However, the complication is that I have just found out I am pregnant and won’t be able to complete even the 12 months. I am aware my rights in terms of maternity leave and pay are all safe. However, I wonder where I would stand on the role being made permanent. i.e. if the role is made permanent whilst I am on maternity leave do they have to hold the role for me or can they offer it to whoever is covering my leave?
It is unlawful to treat you unfavourably because of pregnancy or maternity leave. Not making the secondment role permanent because you are on maternity leave would be unfavourable treatment and therefore unlawful.
However, if you take more than six months for maternity leave, your right to return to the same job is qualified. If it is “not reasonably practicable” for you to return to the same job (i.e. the seconded role if this is made permanent or indeed your substantive role if it is not), you can be offered a suitable alternative position. This does not mean that your employer can simply offer the permanent role to your maternity cover because you are on maternity leave, but if there was a general reorganisation whilst you were away, you could be lawfully offered another role.