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I currently work at a local council with the title of ‘Officer’ and am on maternity leave. I was informed of a department consultation and the deletion of my ‘Officer’ post by my line manager. Due to my status of being on maternity leave, the document indicates that I have been allocated a post as ‘Assistant’. In the new structure there are two ‘Officer’ (band 7) positions followed by two ‘Assistant’ (band 6) positions. Originally my colleague who is a band 7 was ring fenced to the other ‘Assistant’ post. However, since I queried why I haven’t been given the ‘Officer’ post (the full title is almost the same as my post that is to be deleted), they changed their reason for allocation of posts and now have based it on band. Therefore my colleague who was doing a similar job and was ring fenced to the ‘Assistant’ post has been offered the ‘Officer’ post. They say my new post will be similar, although no job description existed until after the consultation period (I am still to receive a copy of this.) They say my band will not change. The location of the job is in question. The real issue for me is the status. Clearly to me an Assistant is lower than an Officer and I really think this could affect my chances of a future career move. My employer has told me that they cannot have two Officers with different bands (band 7 & band 6), so basically I’ve be demoted because of her arbitrary reasoning. Can they do this?
An Employee returning to work after maternity leave is generally entitled to return to work to the same job, on the same terms and conditions as if she had not been absent. However, an exception arises if there is some reason (other than redundancy) why it is not reasonably practicable for the employer to permit her to return to the same job (for example, if there has been an reorganisation), and in this situation the employer has more flexibility. In this situation, the employee is then entitled to return to a different job, which is both suitable for her and appropriate in the circumstances and on terms and conditions not less favourable than they would have been had she been absent.
Furthermore, a genuine redundancy situation can mean that it is not possible for the employee to return to work after maternity leave.
However, when an employee is on maternity leave they have an additional right. This is that if there is suitable alternative employment available in a redundancy situation, the employee on maternity leave is entitled to be offered this over and above any other employee. You have explained that in the new structure, there are two “Officer” positions available and therefore you should be offered one of these positions, over and above any other colleague.
My advice is that you should lodge a formal grievance, i.e. set out in writing to your employer your concerns in respect of the procedure that has taken place so far. You should set out that you are aware that when an employee is on maternity leave, they are entitled to be offered suitable alternative employment over and above any other colleague and therefore you understand that you should be offered the new Officer role. Hopefully the issue will then be resolved prior to your return to work. If it is not resolved to your satisfaction, please contact Tracey Guest on 0161 975 3823 for further advice.