If there hasn’t been a clear break in continuity of service of a week which includes two...read more
I have recently returned from maternity leave. I left my job with a number of specific sales markets which I have had for years. I have found that these have now been allocated to my colleagues without discussion with me and I am only keeping the one which I informed my manager that I could not do due to childcare issues.
The allocation I have now has previously been one that has sat with a junior level. Can they do this?
I am sorry to read about the situation you are facing returning to work and the changes to your role. It doesn’t sound as though this situation has been handled properly or fairly by your manager and could be discrimination.
If you take more than 26 weeks maternity leave, you have the right to return to your job on the same terms as before you left or, if that’s not possible because there have been significant changes to the organisation, you could be offered a similar job. However, the pay, benefits, holiday entitlement, seniority and location of the job should be the same. From your description, I understand that the job has remained the same but the markets you are covering and therefore presumably your ability to meet your sales targets has been affected. Essentially your markets have been taken away from you and instead of being returned to you they have been given permanently to other people. This could give you an argument that the seniority of your role has changed, particularly if the markets you have been given were previously given to more junior employees. If this is the case it could be a breach of the laws on returning to work.
Unfortunately, you are unlikely to be able to make a complaint about pregnancy and maternity discrimination as this only covers a woman whilst pregnant or on maternity leave and I understand you are now using up annual leave so have technically ended your maternity leave. You may, however, be able to argue that their actions are discriminatory on the grounds of sex, i.e. they have only taken this action against you because you are a woman (who took maternity leave) and wouldn’t have reallocated the markets which had been given to a man. If there are any examples you can think of where people have taken long term sick leave and not had their markets reassigned this could help to show they are treating you differently to other situations.
As you have been employed for many years, you may also be able to argue that their actions are so bad that they have breached their contract of employment with you which entitles you to resign and bring a claim for constructive unfair dismissal. This is a complex legal claim and is usually a last resort. Usually you would need to give your employer a chance to address this issue and any unfairness first before resigning and we would recommend you brought a grievance explaining what has happened, why you are unhappy with the situation and what you want to happen next.
Regardless of whether or not you are going to want to challenge it further in the future, I’d recommend you raise a grievance as your next step. You should explain what has happened, that you only found out by accident when reading an email, that you weren’t consulted with about the changes and you feel they are discriminatory and are placing you in a difficult position returning from maternity leave. You should also explain you are confused that the only market they have allocated to you is a market you had said you could not manage due to working time differences. The main concern is that you have not been consulted about these changes, they haven’t been discussed with you and they come into force when you return from your maternity leave so it doesn’t look like this was done to cover your maternity leave period but is a change to your working role which you should have been consulted on properly.
You should add additional details to these points to make as strong an argument as possible as to why this is unfair. I’d also recommend you explain what you want to happen next, i.e. that you had expected to return to work after maternity leave to your existing sales markets and therefore would like them to be returned to you in the same way as has been done in the past for other employees who have taken maternity leave.
If they do not react positively to the grievance you could then consider whether you want to remain in employment or whether you want to resign and consider bringing a claim. We’d always recommend seeking legal advice before resigning to claim constructive unfair dismissal though as it is a complex legal claim.
*Charlotte Farrell and Tabytha Cunningham are Associate Solicitors at Paris Smith in Southampton.