I have recently returned to work [in August] following my maternity leave. Whilst I was off, the department has gone through a restructuring and half my job has been given to other colleagues. I think they were hoping I would come back part time, but I am working full time. I have also been excluded from committees I previously sat on and new ones being formed without any explanation. I did know about the restructure and attending a meeting in September 2010, but didn’t hear anything from the company after that. I feel like I have been demoted just because I’ve been off and there hardly seems to be a job here for me. It is now affecting my health and I am depressed and unable to sleep at night. Are they allowed to change my duties to this extent without consulting me prior to my return to work?
I am presuming that you were on maternity leave for a full 12 months since you talk about consultation in September 2010 and then returning to work in August 2011? An employee returning from a full 12 months leave (Additional Maternity Leave) is entitled to return to a similar job at the same status, responsibilities and remuneration. Often an employer will give an employee the same role after they return from AML, but the employer does not have to – just a similar role is sufficient.
From your information, it does not sound like your current role is “similar” enough to the one you left and so it does sound like your employer has not followed the law appropriately here and you have been treated less favourably than your colleagues due to the fact that you went on maternity leave. Therefore potentially you may have a claim for sex discrimination.
You say that you think your employer expected you to return part time when in fact you have returned full time. Without discussing this with you, an employer cannot “guess” what a person wants to do on their return from maternity leave.
I would suggest that you talk to your employer again in a formal meeting. If you have an HR Department I would certainly contact them. You may want to lodge it as a formal Grievance since then your employer is obliged to follow legal process to address your concerns. Your company should have a Grievance procedure written down perhaps in an Employee Hand book, otherwise you will be able to find the statutory procedure on the ACAS website.
If your Grievance still does not lead you to get your job with full responsibilities back then I would suggest that you need to seek legal advice. You could start with ACAS who run an independent advice line and/or from an employment solicitor.
Whilst every care has been taken in compiling this answer, WorkingMums cannot be held responsible for any errors or omissions. This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific legal advice.