Job functions narrowed after maternity leave

I was employed by a large corporation in a senior role doing two types of work. I had a colleague doing a similar role abroad. During my first maternity leave of 12 months, the business was taken over and my line manager left, so my new line manager was from the acquiring business. I was retained to fill the shoes of a person who had resigned from the company that took us over. I returned to work for five months, three days a week before my second maternity leave. As I returned for a short period, and was pregnant for all that time, I did not question the scope of the work I was being given at that time. I returned to work earlier this year. I now find my role narrower in scope than my original role before the maternity leaves and the business was taken over. I understand that some element of the narrowing of my workload is a result of working three not five days a week. However, this was never discussed when I requested the reduction of hours and instead the conversation focussed on how I would cover the other two days if necessary. I have in fact consistently worked on many of my days off since returning to work to undertake transactional work. I consider the scope of my role has reduced as my line manager moved (while I was on my first maternity leave) a colleague from the acquiring company to be her “second in command” and that person now undertakes some roles that I would consider I am capable of doing and would sometimes have undertaken for my previous line manager. In addition, another person has been hired who does some of my original roles. My job title has been changed to “harmonise” with job titles of those in the acquiring business, but my current title feels a demotion / to have less seniority.  Now my business is being taken over again. I have little comfort my line manager will fight my corner and find it harder to justify my role which has diminished. What are my rights?

I understand that the company you work for has recently undergone a restructure having been taking over by another company. Prior to your first maternity leave of 12 months, your role entailed two types of work. You say that after your first maternity leave, you returned to work for five months, three days a week and undertook the work of an individual who had resigned from the company that took over. You did not question the scope of work. You then went on maternity leave again for 12 months and returned earlier this year to again work three days a week. You now find that your role is narrower in scope than your original role before the two maternity leaves and before the business was taken over. I understand that your job title has also changed due to a “harmonisation”.

Generally speaking, when you return from additional maternity leave you have the right to return to the same job that you were doing before you left unless this is not reasonably practicable (for a reason other than redundancy), in which case, you have the right to return to terms and conditions no less favourable than those which would have applied had you not been absent. I note that you have reduced your working hours, but it also appears that the fundamental nature and scope of your role has changed. You may therefore be able to argue that this is maternity/sex discrimination and you could potentially have a claim for constructive unfair dismissal if you resigned in response to your employer’s treatment of you (NB I would not advise you to resign without first taking specific legal advice). Any claim for pregnancy/sex discrimination must be brought within three months of the discriminatory act and you must go through the Acas pre-conciliation process before you can submit a claim.

As a first step, I think you would benefit from some clarity in relation to your current role/job function. You believe that your workload has reduced, you feel you are competing with colleagues for work, some of the work you consider capable of doing is now undertaken by others and your line manager is unsupportive in many ways. Although you have raised the issue in respect of your job title, the best way to move this forward would be for you to request a meeting with HR to discuss what you/they think your current role entails. You will also be able to discuss how you feel about your relationship with your line manager. If this does not resolve matters, you should consider raising a formal grievance.

Your terms and conditions of employment would also be protected if the business sales you describe are covered by the TUPE Regulations (as is likely to be the case). And changes where the sole or principal reason is the transfer will be void. As TUPE is such a complex area I would need further information from you to be able to advise in detail. If you do want us to review your position further for you , please contact Tracey Guest on 0161 672 1425.

*Helen Frankland has assisted with this answer.


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