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I have done shared parental leave – I have taken six months off then returned for three months and I will then take three more months off. I am due to return full time, but they have changed my role dramatically – keeping the same title and with much less responsibility and they are also keeping on my maternity cover. I see this as a demotion and raised this during my recent time back and they said they would consider alternative roles. These now don’t exist. Do you have any advice on what I should do?
Where an employee returns to work after a period of shared parental leave [SPL] which, when added to any other period of relevant statutory leave they have taken in relation to the same child, is 26 weeks or less, the employee is entitled to return to the job in which they were employed before their absence.
However, in your case, you will have taken in excess of 26 weeks’ leave and therefore the position is slightly different. Where an employee returns to work after a period of SPL which, when added to any other period of relevant statutory leave they have taken in relation to the same child, is more than 26 weeks, the employee is entitled to return to the job in which they were employed before their absence unless it is not reasonably practicable (for a reason other than redundancy) for their employer to return them to that job, in which case they will be entitled to return to another job which is both suitable for them and appropriate for them to do in the circumstances. The question for you to consider is therefore whether your “new” job is suitable and appropriate.
If your employer has refused to allow you to return to your previous role (in circumstances where it would have been practicable for your employer to allow you to so return) or where it is not practicable for you to return to your previous role but you have not been given another role which is suitable and appropriate, you may have a claim for detriment and/or dismissal (which could be automatically unfair) relating to your SPL. You may also have a claim for discrimination against your employer.
If you are dissatisfied with your employer’s behaviour towards you, I would recommend that you draft and submit a formal grievance, explaining why you are unhappy. I would also recommend that you consider a Tribunal claim against your employer if you are unable to resolve the matter internally. As there are very strict time limits for Tribunal claims, I would advise you to take specific legal advice as a matter of urgency. You would also need to go through the ACAS early conciliation process before a Tribunal would accept your claim.
*Helen Frankland assisted with this answer.