Experts at a City Law Firm give some advice on your rights during maternity leave, covering issues such as redundancy and keeping in touch.
Here are some FAQs on maternity leave and discrimination in employment.
What statutory maternity leave am I entitled to?
Eligible employees can take up to 52 weeks maternity leave. The first 26 weeks is known as ‘Ordinary Maternity Leave’, the last 26 weeks as ‘Additional Maternity Leave’. Some employers offer more than the statutory amounts through a company maternity scheme.
The earliest leave can be taken is 11 weeks before the expected week of childbirth. Employees must take at least 2 weeks after the birth (or 4 weeks if they’re a factory worker). Employers will assume you will take 52 weeks’ maternity leave if you do not give a return date, but if you want to come back earlier you should give at least eight weeks’ notice. If you do not plan to return, you must hand in your notice in the normal way.
Can I be expected to work during my maternity leave?
Employees can work up to 10 days during their maternity, adoption or additional paternity leave. These days are called ‘keeping in touch days’.
Keeping in touch days are optional, both the employee and employer need to agree to them. The type of work and pay employees get should be agreed before they come into work. The employee’s right to maternity, adoption or additional paternity leave and pay isn’t affected by taking keeping in touch days.
Can the terms and conditions of my employment be changed whilst I am away?
Normally, the employment terms and conditions are protected and employees are entitled to any pay rises and improvements in terms and conditions given during their leave. Pension contributions usually stop if a period of leave is unpaid. For example, unpaid periods of maternity leave or parental leave.
Employees continue to build up holiday entitlement and can take any holiday they’ve accrued (built up) before or after their leave.
Can my job be different when I return to work?
Employees have the right to return to their job if they take:
– Ordinary Maternity or Ordinary Adoption leave
– Ordinary Paternity Leave
– Additional Paternity Leave
– Four weeks or less of parental leave
The rules are different if the employee takes:
– Additional Maternity or Additional Adoption Leave
– More than 4 weeks of parental leave
In this situation, employees have the right to their job or a similar job (if it’s not possible to give them their old job). Similar means the job has the same or better terms and conditions. If the employee unreasonably refuses to take the similar job the employer can take this as their resignation. However, an employer cannot decide unilaterally that you can no longer cope in a role and reduce your salary, hours or responsibilities.
Can I be made redundant whilst on maternity leave?
While an employee is on maternity, adoption, paternity or parental leave they have the same redundancy rights as their colleagues plus the right to be offered any suitable alternative job if they’re selected for redundancy (even if other colleagues are more suitable for the role).
An employee can only be made redundant if the employer can clearly justify doing it – eg a part of the business closes and everyone in that section is made redundant. There are other rules for employers when making staff redundant. If its clear they are making you redundant because you will be returning as a mum, because you have requested flexible working or just because you are on maternity leave this is discrimination and thus unlawful.
What is discrimination and am I protected from discrimination whilst on maternity leave?
It is against the law to discriminate against anyone because of a ‘protected characteristic’ , which includes being pregnant or having a child or because of your gender. You’re protected against any form of discrimination at work by the Equality Act 2010.
You’re also protected from discrimination if you’re associated with someone who has a protected characteristic, eg a family member or friend or you’ve complained about discrimination or supported someone else’s claim So yes you are protected against discrimination whether in the work place or still on maternity leave.
How you can you be discriminated against?
Discrimination can come in one of the following forms:
– direct discrimination – treating someone less favourably than others (salary or responsibilities )
– indirect discrimination – putting rules or arrangements in place that apply to everyone, but that put someone , like a mum, at an unfair disadvantage
– harassment – unwanted behaviour that violates someone’s dignity or creates an offensive environment for them. This can be physical contact or jokes or aggressive actions
– victimisation – treating someone unfairly because they’ve complained about discrimination or harassment
If you have suffered any form of discrimination or suspect you are you will have the right to issue a written grievance – issue a claim at the Tribunal – in some cases constructively dismiss yourself.
*If you would like specific advice in respect of a problem you are facing or just need general information, please contact one of the team at A City Law Firm LLP who will be able to assist you further.