I have just returned to work following 39 weeks maternity leave. Nine months to going on maternity leave I underwent a consultation process to broaden the remit of my role. I received no pay increase, but my job title was changed and my team’s name (and remit) was changed. One of my team acted up into my role whilst I was on maternity leave, but as she didn’t have relevant experience was given only my original remit and not the broader role, the team was also refocused to the original remit. I was told I would return to the role that I left with the broader remit, but now that I’m back my boss keeps referring to me and my team as per my maternity cover. Effectively it looks like I’ve got a reduction in responsibility and potentially status as a result of going on maternity leave. My job title seems to have reverted to pre consultation. There’s been no change to my pay.
When an employee goes on maternity leave, if she takes up to 26 weeks (called Ordinary Maternity Leave) then she is entitled to return to the exact same job on return from maternity leave. If an employee chooses to take maternity leave going beyond 26 weeks and up to the maximum of the full 52 week leave entitlement (known as additional maternity leave) then the employer only has to find her a job that is similar in status and responsibilities, it does not have to be the exact same role from pre maternity leave. In reality, a lot of employees do return to exactly the same job but there is no legal obligation for the employer to do this.
So, following your additional maternity leave, your employer does not have to give you your exact job back, but has to give you one that is similar in terms of responsibilities, status and compensation. So by requesting that you return to your earlier roles from nine months before your maternity leave started, your employer is not acting within legal requirements.
I would suggest that you request a meeting with your line leader (and HR if you have one) to discuss this further. If they continue to make you do the more junior role you may want to lodge a grievance since this requires your employer to formally review your complaint following a legally laid down process. Alternatively, you might want to talk to ACAS who provide a free, independent telephone advice line to discuss whether you need to seek legal advice.
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.