Before I went on maternity leave I was told that I couldn’t be on the interview panel for hiring new staff for the team I manage and train until I completed management training. I was told I could not start this training until I returned from maternity leave. This was five months prior to my leave starting. I have just learnt that my maternity cover has been on the interview panel for the most recent set of interviews without having to complete the management training. Are my employees allowed to offer her opportunities within the role that I was not entitled to? I’m returning to work after nine months to a job share with my maternity cover – she will work two days in the role and I will work three. She is, however, working an additional two days, but they have not yet confirmed what she will be doing on these days and she is under the impression they are waiting till the last minute to tell her. If she is offered a role, different to the one we are currently employed in, should I be offered the opportunity to apply for it also?
If you believe that you were treated unfavourably whilst you were pregnant by not being able to sit on the interview panel, you might have a claim under the Equality Act. However, this appears to have taken place more than three months ago, which would mean that the claim is unfortunately out of time. There are possible extensions to the usual time limit where it is “just and equitable” (i.e. fair) to allow you to bring a claim out of time, but it can be quite hard to persuade a Tribunal to allow this. If you want to pursue this, you should contact ACAS for “Early Conciliation” as soon as possible, and seek specific legal advice about the situation.
As for new opportunities, if any colleague is offered the opportunity of a role that would be suitable for you, not allowing you to apply might be considered unlawful unfavourable treatment because of your maternity leave. This does not appear to have manifested itself yet and you will need to monitor the situation. There is, of course, nothing wrong with your employer seeking to retain a maternity cover where there is another role vacant, particularly in circumstances where you are returning to a job share.