Should I have been able to apply for promotion on maternity leave?

I have recently started my maternity leave. I am a in a senior role reporting directly to a general manager. A few days after my maternity leave began, a manager role has been introduced between my role and the general manager so I now have a new manager which I was advised of by telephone. The company are not replacing me whilst on maternity leave. I was not advised of this up and coming manager role, which essentially would be a promotion as it is the next step up. The manager role was not advertised internally or externally for applications and it is a permanent position, which I feel I have been unable to apply for. I’m slightly disheartened as discussions in 1-2-1 meetings with my manager had talked about me wanting to progress, given objectives for me to work towards a managerial role.

I note from your question that a few days after your maternity leave began, a manager role was introduced between your role and the general manager. I further note that the company are not replacing you whilst on maternity leave and that you were not advised of this new role, which essentially would be a promotion. I further note that the manager role was not advertised internally or externally for applications and it is a permanent position, which you would have liked to apply for.

Whilst on maternity leave you should be informed of any promotion opportunities or vacancies which arise. When an employer fails to do so they risk facing claims for detriment, discrimination and/or unfair dismissal depending on the circumstances.

For example, in Visa International Service Association plc v Paul [2004], an employee was successful with her claim that the employer had breached the implied terms of mutual trust and confidence and had discriminated against her on grounds of pregnancy/maternity because she was on maternity leave when it failed to inform her of a vacancy that she would have wished to apply for.

In light of the above I would suggest you initially discuss your concerns informally with your manager/HR. If this does not resolve the problem then I would recommend you raise a formal grievance.

If this course of action does not conclude matters then I would advise you to take specific legal advice on your next steps. Please note that a claim for discrimination has to be submitted to an employment tribunal within a period of three months from the date of the act to which the complaint relates and you also have to have undertaken the Acas early conciliation procedure in order for your claim to be accepted by an employment tribunal.

Should you require any further clarification on the above points then please do not hesitate to contact Tracey Guest of Slater Heelis on 0161 672 1246.

*Helen Frankland assisted in answering this question.

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