I am currently on maternity leave and due to return to work 15th October. An opportunity for a promotion has come up and there is only me and another girl eligible for this. My manager contacted me yesterday to tell me it was available and if I wasn’t interested then it would be given to the other girl and if I was interested then I would need to attend an interview. My manager then told me if I was successful I would need to return to work immediately and not finish the end of maternity leave which so far I have taken 28 weeks or I wouldn’t get the job. If being promoted do I need to return to work early?
You should not be treated “unfavourably” because you are on maternity leave. Not offering you a promotion because you are still on maternity leave would be unlawful discrimination.
Your employer is able to request that you come in for interview, but they should not require you to return early from maternity leave as a condition of the promotion.
I suggest that you attend the interview and see who gets the job. If you are offered the promotion, you can then say that you intend remaining on maternity leave as you had planned and that you will take up the new role when you return. If you are asked any questions in the interview about your return date, you should say that you think that is inappropriate as you should not be required to return early to take up a promotion.
If possible, communicate with your employer by email so that you have evidence of what they have said.
If you are not then offered the promotion because you do not want to return early, you will have a claim for discrimination.