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I have been on a fixed-term contract for three years on a four-year contract. The fourth year’s funding is not yet confirmed. I am due to go on maternity leave with my second child in November, with 18 weeks Occupational Maternity Leave (full pay) followed by 21 weeks Statutory Maternity Leave. We have not yet been notified about an extension to my contract funding. My questions are: if I take Occupational Maternity pay and have no job to return to, do I still have to repay the full amount (a condition my employer sets out is that I have to return to work for 12 weeks full time or six months part-time after maternity leave or pay back the Occupational Maternity pay)?; Do they have to redeploy me, or offer me redundancy, even if it’s a fixed term contract? Can they force me to return to work early from maternity leave in order to work the 12-week period or pay back Occupational Maternity? Or can they refuse to pay me Occupational Maternity knowing that my contract will be coming to an end?
If your contract is not renewed solely because of your pregnancy/maternity leave that would be discrimination, but the contract can come to an end for sound business reasons eg if funding is not available to fund your post. As you have worked for have been continuously employed for over two years you would be entitled to redundancy and would also be entitled to be offered a suitable alternative post. After four years you automatically become a permanent employee with all associated rights unless the employer can show a valid business reason why you should not be.
In any event, as during the protected period (the beginning to the end of the maternity leave) unfavourable treatment of a woman because she is pregnant or on maternity leave is unlawful, I would say this means if you are entitled to enhanced pay then you should receive it. If you are made redundant and there is no suitable available alternative, the enhanced pay should be calculated as part of a redundancy payment.