Facing a restructure on maternity leave and in a job share: ask the expert

I am currently on annual leave prior to my maternity leave starting on 12th April.  I am on a job-share and I work in HR.  We were recently informed our office would be restructured due to cost savings and we had the first meeting with our Director about it this week. This is the consultation stage.  I attended the meeting.  Basically we have been told that a Satellite Office will be closed and this merger will result in the loss of some posts i.e. 1 HR Manager, 1 HR Adviser and 3 HR Assistants. We have been told that you will only be job matched if there is only 1 person for that job.  If you are matched you cannot apply for any other post.  Non-matched people will have to apply for roles still available.  We were told we can apply on a job share basis so that’s fine.  But I have a couple of questions: Considering I am going to be on maternity leave, should I have to go through the same process as everyone else? Also, is what they are doing correct? Can they suddently turn around and say you have to go into a lower grade and take a demoted role?  We were also told that if we didn’t get the job we went for at application stage then they would look to other jobs in our Institution and failing that it would be redundancy.  Can this happen to me on maternity leave?

You are correct in your belief that you should not have to go through the same process as your colleagues.

Any employee on maternity leave, in a redundancy situation, has an additional right – which is the right to be offered any suitable employment, before such offer is made to other employees carrying out the same role as yourself, whom are not on maternity leave.   Therefore, when you are on maternity leave,  if you are at risk of redundancy, you should be offered the new position of HR assistant at grade 5, prior to this position being offered to any other grade 5 employee.

However, this right only arises when you are on maternity leave.  I understand that you are currently on annual leave.  If the consultation process and decisions regarding redundancy will be completed prior to you commencing maternity leave on 12th April 2010, you will not have this additional right.  However, if the consultation process continues after 12th April 2010, you will receive the additional right and you should not be made redundant.  If you were made redundant, then you would have a potential claim for unfair dismissal and sex discrimination.

If the Company is likely to complete the redundancy exercise prior to 12th April 2010, I recommend that you ask your employer if you can commence maternity leave earlier, without explaining the reason why.

You have also asked whether your employer can insist that employees accept a lower grade and take a demoted role. Your employer cannot do this, without risking claims for constructive unfair dismissal and claims for unlawful deduction from wages, (if the lower level role results in the employee receiving a pay decrease).   However, from reading the document headed “Stages followed in restructuring”, I do not think that your employer is intending to do this.  Your employer has stated that  if an individual is not directly matched to a role then, in order to seek to avoid a potential redundancy situation, that person can apply for various positions and may then choose to apply for positions at a lower grade.   Your employer is not insisting that any employee accepts a position at a lower grade.  However, your employer is stating that if an employee applies for a position at a lower grade and if then offered and accepts this position, then there will be no pay protection and the lower role could and may be at a lower rate of pay.





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