I am currently 27 weeks pregnant and pushing HR to start to think about my cover whilst on maternity leave. I have agreed to 10 months leave. I am in a senior management position with a heavy workload. One of my senior team members is also pregnant. I have been told that there is no budget to hire cover for either of our roles (even though only paying us statutory pay) so they are going to ask two colleagues to look after their own departments as well as ours whilst on maternity leave. I know that these colleagues are currently stressed with her own workload and there is no way can manage the two. What rights do I have to say this is not Ok?
How an employer chooses to manage the absence of an employee on maternity leave is not something that the employee concerned tends to get involved with, nor really has any control over. The limit of an employer’s specific legal responsibilities towards staff departing on maternity leave is to honour their rights and obligations associated with the leave itself (maintaining benefits, preserving right to return etc), and so long as they do not act in such a way to infringe any of those rights or interfere with an employee’s right to take leave as such, there is no direct cause of action that the employee can take resulting from any mismanagement of the arrangements set up to cover maternity leave.
The employer equally has duties towards their other staff, for instance, associated with ensuring that those remaining staff are not over-worked etc, but any complaint or argument that an employer mismanages or places an excessive burden on another member of staff, as a consequence of a colleague being on maternity leave, would fall to that other member of staff to raise and pursue, to protect their own position. This is again not something that the employee on maternity leave can control or have any responsibility or place to challenge.
The simple answer to your question therefore is that you, unfortunately, have no direct rights to say that what your employer is doing is not OK.