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I am on maternity leave for a year and put in a request for flexible working, but on a recent KIT day I had a strange conversation with my new manager. Since being away I was told my role had changed, without consultation, to a semi promotion, but then got told face to face that the location is changing to half way up the country. I used to travel there two or three times a week and the travel was paid for. However, as the role is permanently based in that office I will have to travel every day and pay £900 a month for the privilege, although all my stakeholders are in London. I think from the conversation that the company is trying to push me out. My manager didn’t explain my new role or responsibilities. He just spoke about women in the workplace and how men get all the good jobs. He said he didn’t want to be involved in my new contract and would leave it to HR to discuss my new contract times, days, pay and location. HR say my only option is redundancy.
You appear to have been notified that there is to be a material change in your job whilst you have been on maternity leave that will affect you on your return. This could give rise to a claim for constructive dismissal, but initially the change seemed fairly innocuous in that you would have a new manager. However, to now stipulate that the location job title, salary structure ( in that you won’t be paid for the travel) and presumably responsibilities have changed are fundamental.
Sometimes changes do happen whilst employees are on maternity leave and there may be a genuine need for the change which makes it unfortunate for those affected. BUT if there is no genuine reason for pushing this through then there may be a claim for unfair dismissal. This will become an automatic unfair dismissal if the job that you do still exists. From the discussions with colleagues and the last meeting it appears that the role does still exist in London and therefore at this stage all one can reasonably assume is there is some other reason for forcing a relocation to Stoke. As you have quite rightly expressed that this is not suitable the company will engage a redundancy programme to try and justify their decision. However, after discussions with colleagues and from the comments about men getting all the best jobs one can assume that the real reason is connected to the pregnancy which would give rise to the automatic unfair dismissal and direct sex discrimination.
The next step would be to go through the redundancy programme requesting documentary evidence as to the necessity for the change. Object to the decision and put your case forward for the post to remain in London. If necessary, appeal any decision within the redundancy process. Keep notes of dates and times of meetings and who has said exactly what as this may be necessary for you to build your appeals. If the decision is not reversed, then there may be no choice but to take the matter further to an employment tribunal. This should always be the last resort as hopefully the employer will see the benefits of retaining good staff after maternity leave.