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I was promoted into a manager position while being pregnant and I was given a team to look after 50% of my time and 50% of my time to still work on clients. The team structure was changed about 3 weeks into it and since I was going on maternity leave soon they said we will figure it out once you are back. For the remaining 2 or 3 months I continued in my position pre promotion, but with the package and title of the promotion. I returned from my maternity leave in January and have been asked to go on a secondment to my client in South Africa for three months which I accepted. In the meantime the new team structure has been put in place and I was told I had to apply for any of the manager positions if I was interested in them. I applied, but I didn’t get them and am at risk of having to find another job. There are no redundancies. What are my rights?
I understand that you were promoted into a manager position while pregnant, but that the team structure was changed about three weeks into it and that you therefore continued in your pre-promotion position but with the package and title of promotion for the remaining time before your maternity leave. You returned from maternity leave in January and agreed to go on a secondment. Whilst you have been on secondment, the new team structure has been put in place, but you were told you would have to apply for any of the manager positions you were interested in. You applied but have been unsuccessful. You say that you are at risk of having to find another job, but it is unclear why you say this as you also confirm that you have not been given notice and that your employer is not making redundancies.
When you return from maternity leave, you are entitled to return to the same job in which you were employed before your absence if you took ordinary maternity leave and your terms of employment must be the same as, or not less favourable than, they would have been had you not been absent, unless a redundancy situation has arisen. If you also took a period of AML, you are generally entitled to return to work to the same job, on the same terms and conditions as if you had not been absent. However, where there is some reason (other than redundancy) why it is not reasonably practicable for your employer to permit you to return to the same job (for example, if there has been a reorganisation), you are entitled to return to a different job which is both suitable for you and appropriate in the circumstances and on terms and conditions which are not be less favourable than they would have been had you not been absent.
It appears from your email that you did return to work to your pre-maternity leave position (albeit that you agreed to a secondment). However, it is not clear from your email what job you are currently employed in. If you returned to your previous role after your maternity leave, but this role was changed/removed shortly after your return, you may have a claim for pregnancy/maternity discrimination if you can show that this was due to you taking maternity leave. Pregnancy and maternity discrimination in the workplace is unlawful and specifically it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate by treating an employee unfavourably because she is on compulsory maternity leave or because she is exercising or seeking to exercise,or has exercised or sought to exercise, the right to ordinary or additional maternity leave. Alternatively, this may amount to direct sex discrimination if the reason for your employer’s treatment of you is your sex : it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate directly by treating a job applicant or employee less favourably than others because of sex. I note that you state that your employer is not making redundancies, but if your previous role does not exist any more, this is a redundancy situation and you would be entitled to a redundancy payment and you would be entitled to your contractual notice entitlement if you are dismissed. Furthermore, depending on how your employer manages the redundancy process, you may be able to claim unfair dismissal.
Any claims for discrimination must be brought within three months of the discriminatory act and for unfair dismissal, must be brought within three months of the termination of your employment. In both cases, you would need to comply with the acas pre-conciliation procedures before submitting a claim. I would advise you to submit a written grievance to your employer as a first step. This should note that you consider that the treatment you have received is unfair and based on the fact that you have taken maternity leave. From the details of your email, it is unclear whether this is a redundancy situation but you should also bear in mind that this is a possibility and that you may be entitled to a redundancy payment.
If you need any further assistance please contact Tracey Guest on 0161 975 3823.