Job changed while on maternity leave: ask the expert

I am currently due to return to work next month after a year off from maternity leave. During this time my team has been restructured and increased in size/jobs. My employer has offered me a role, but this role was previously done by a junior in the team. They have increased the level and salary of the offered role to show that this role is in theory suitable. My actual role has been split into two roles: role one which is 60/70% of what I was previously doing has been moved to a level up from my current role and as such not offered to me. Role two which is 30/40% of my role is at the same level, but the job description has been written in such a way that it exactly matches the profile of my maternity cover. Am I entitled to argue that the role I have been offered is not suitable (5% of what I have previously done) and that I should be offered one of the other posts without having to interview for them?

Unfortunately, your situation is not uncommon. However, the law does afford employees on ordinary maternity leave legal protection and rights to return to the same job, or one that is no less favourable, than the position covered before maternity leave was taken.

As you will be returning from additional rather than ordinary maternity leave, and there has been a reorganisation in the meantime, it appears that it is not reasonably practical for you to return to the exact same job given that your employer has now split this into two positions and the original team has been expanded to meet with business needs.

What you are legally entitled to is the right to return to a role which has terms and conditions that are no less favourable than your previous job. While you state that the position offered to you had previously been carried out by a more junior member of the team, your employer has increased both the level and salary and therefore you will be on improved terms and conditions (this is based on the assumption that the increase is based on your original salary rather than an increase in the previous pay level for the role offered).

However, you state that the new job description is at a junior level and presumably that means it includes more menial tasks than your previous post. You also state that you believe that the second role, made up of 30 – 40% of your original job, may be offered to your maternity cover and has not been offered to you.

As your employer has changed your job to include work which is less favourable than your original post, and it seems your employer is also likely to give aspects of your original position to the candidate covering your maternity leave.This could potentially be unlawful based on the information you have provided.

A preference for an employee employed on maternity cover to perform your role (or certain parts of your job) is unlikely to be sufficient justification to change your existing position. It is also likely that giving important parts of your original job to the candidate covering your maternity leave may constitute unlawful discrimination on the grounds of maternity.

I would also comment that if your employer has embarked upon a restructuring exercise affecting your position whilst you have been on maternity leave and yet have failed to properly inform and consult with you concerning that restructure, or indeed failed to offer you the opportunity to apply for the other role, then this in itself may be unlawful discrimination.

Employment law provides considerable protection for women both during pregnancy and thereafter and your employer cannot discriminate against you as a result of your pregnancy or taking maternity leave. In order to defend a discrimination claim, your employer would have to prove that their decision to change your remit to include more menial tasks was not linked in any way to your being on maternity leave.

If your employer does not allow you to return to the same job or you are not offered a suitable alternative i.e. the position which now comprises 30 – 40% of your original job, you have a potential claim for pregnancy and maternity discrimination, automatic unfair dismissal (if this can’t be addressed), or unlawful detriment.

It is difficult to fully advise you without sight of the letters from your employer regarding proposed changes to the position you’ll be returning to and both your original and proposed job descriptions. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with the above documentation so I can more fully advise of your position before you speak to your employer to address this.”

Comments [28]

  • Martha says:

    I am going back to work after 12 months off. I have ask to reduce to 3 days a week. This was initially not granted. I was told at first to return as before AML or leave. It has now been agreed at 3 days but with a change in job role. I have been put on a probation period as it is a new role. I have worked for a number of years at this company . Is this allowed?

  • Chloe says:

    Hi, I am currently on maternity leave. 2 days after I had my baby the company was sold but the new owners have kept most of the staff on. I was contacted by the manager who informed me of this and reassured me that nothing had changed for me. I have since been told by a colleague that our roles have changed (including the title) with increased responsibilities but no pay increase. In addition to this we are no longer allowed to work from home but I had negotiated a WFH agreement with the previous to MAT leave which was signed. (I am the only one with this agreement) 30% of the staff have handed in their notice so far and none of those posts are getting replaced which makes me think these changes are strategic and I think others will leave too. I’m only 2 months into my leave and I have not yet been told about these additional changes by management. If these changes apply to me too, does this mean that my current role is redundant or is this a breach of contract? I want to be knowledgeable of my rights before I return.

  • Sally says:

    Please help I am due to go back to work after maternity leave. I have asked to reduce my days to 3 instead of 5. My boss has agreed but said I need to change my job title to mid level instead of senior as they will not now let me run a project working part time. They have stated that my contract however remains the same … can they do this? I can not just turn off my skill level. They have also reduced my salary inline with the new title. I was expecting it to reduce pro rata as I will be working less days of course but not demoted and salary reduced but no actual change to contract. Do I have any rights here?

    • Mandy Garner says:

      Apart from this project are they essentially expecting you to do the same job as before? How much is this a reduction in your duties? Are there other duties which are of a more senior level? They do not have to agree a flexible working request and can offer you an alternative, but you do not have to agree any change to your terms and conditions, such as job title change and reduction in salary. Is it reasonable that you cannot run the project on a part-time basis? If you could write into [email protected] with more information, one of our legal experts could help you further.

  • Kate says:

    Hello I’ll be returning to work after 12 months off soon and have just been told there are no vacancies for me to return to in my team. Someone was brought into the team to cover my 3 days maternity leave and they are keeping them on. They’ve offered me a role in another team but I don’t want it.

    If the job titles are the same in the eyes of my contract i.e ‘policy advisor’ but the jobs themselves are completely different, different subject and remit, can they do this?

  • Phoebe says:

    Hi! I have a similar situation as mentioned above. I am due to return to work from additional maternity leave and have been told my role has expanded and I will have greater responsibility (an additional region is added) without additional pay. They say it’s part of reorg. I have not been consulted (just informed) and they have given me the option to accept or resign. I’m not sure if this is a change in the contract (although my title has also changed) so not sure what my rights are. Thank You!

  • Rachel Almeida says:

    Hi, my manager has told me he plans to keep on my maternity leave for 6 months after I return to my role to keep 1/3 of my responsibilities as he says the workload has increased significantly and more capacity is needed to meet organisational needs. Is there anything I can do to prevent this change just happening? Many thanks

  • Lou says:

    What is the best way to handle returning after 9 months aml to the same role but my mat cover has created a role for herself in another department that overlaps part of mine but with a larger remit? I’ve brought it to my bosses attention and he’s facilitated a meeting to discuss roles and responsibilities and we’ve agreed to trial for a month and see how it goes. I was never informed of any of this formally prior to my return. The problem is I’m having to already assert myself with other colleagues who keep including her in issues that are within my remit and always have been. Her new job title is even remarkably similar to mine and causes confusion. I feel belittled by her during conversations and margianalised. My boss only sees it as a positive that 2 ppl are on the case rather than one. I don’t want to burn bridges but i also think this constitutes discrimination for me having been on maternity.

    • Mandy Garner says:

      Hi, After AML, you have a right to return to the same job if it still exists. Have you returned full time and is the job the same as before? If anything has changed, you should have been consulted and your agreement obtained. If it is more that your job is the same on paper, but the maternity cover’s role is impacting on your job,the best thing to do is to keep a record of that, eg, are you losing work as a result? Are you being bypassed in decision-making etc? You could then bring that up with your manager and say that it is causing conflict. It’s a good idea to think of ways that any conflict can be lessened.

  • May says:

    I am due to return to work at the end of December from maternity leave but have just been told my role is being expanded and I will have greater responsibility and in turn more to do upon my return. With a baby and small child I feel this will be too much but there are no other options and no flexibility.
    Do I have any other options?

  • daniel lerose says:

    What is a reasonable timeline to add new responsibilities to a returning Mom? These would be the same job function, but 1 or 2 days a month of travel.

  • Claire Harris says:

    Hi Alan,
    I have a similar situation to this, do you have an email address I can email details to? Redundancies in the department, half my job description has changed to almost a junior level and I’ve had no consultation.
    Thank you,

      • Nicole Gee says:

        Hi I wondered if someone could help me, before I went on Maternity leave I was joint manager. While I was of on maternity the lady I did joint manger with left, they now have someone else in doing the manager role by them self. I would like to return back to work and I am more than happy to do the managers role by myself and be they allowed to refuse that.

        • Mandy Garner says:

          Hi, You have the right to return to your previous job after the first six months of maternity leave. After additional maternity leave [6-12 months] you have the right to return to your previous job or a suitable alternative [similar terms and conditions] if that job does not exist, eg, it has been made redundant. They cannot simply give it to another person.

  • Zo says:

    Can you help me I going back to work in September and my company want to change my job role a few days from office to shop floor can there do this ??

    • Mandy Garner says:

      Hi Zo,
      Can you provide a bit more information on how long you have been off [is it on maternity leave] and whether there is any clause in your contract which may allow this change of location and duties?

Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your Franchise Selection

Click the button below to register your interest with all the franchises in your selection

Request FREE Information Now

Your Franchise Selection

This franchise opportunity has been added to your franchise selection



Click the button below to register your interest with all the franchises in your selection

Request FREE Information Now

You may be interested in these similar franchises