No consultation about work changes: ask the expert

I am on maternity leave and am due to return in May this year. Unfortunatly, I was signed off sick from April due to complications during pregnancy, and my maternity began in August. Since then, I feel its a case of “out of sight, out of mind”. I have not received the copy of the company maternity policy which I have requested twice from the HR department, I have not received any information regarding a change to structure and pensions, and also job vacancies which were open to all colleagues (both of which I only heard about from a colleague I bumped into after the positions had been filled!). I also know the company are moving premises, but I have no idea when, where and have not heard anything since November last year! I am extremely upset about how I have been treated after 5 years service, and the thought of having to go back and work there again makes me feel sick to my stomach because of it. Has my employer failed in their obligations at all, or am I overreacting? Is there anything I can do as I don’t feel I can just let this lie?

Before an employee goes on maternity leave, most employees have a discussion about the level of contact that they wish to have while away. Some women request minimal contact from their work while others choose to get more involved, requesting more regular updates and requesting to come in for the odd day to see colleagues, undertake training etc. I do not know what arrangements you made with your employer before you left work so it might be that are trying to be respectful and not contact you too often.

However, there are certain circumstances where an employer should contact staff on maternity leave, the most common one being if there is a reorganisation at work or substantial change to terms and conditions of employment.

Whilst your job sounds secure (ie I assume that you will be going back to the same/similar role when you return to work since you do not mention otherwise), the fact that the company is moving location and that certain aspects of your employment contact are being changed (pension and structure) do sound worrying.

In terms of the relocation to another site, you do not state where it is so it is difficult to know if this is just down the road or much further away. If your employment contract contains a mobility clause within it, then an employer can ask staff to relocate within reason (ie its not 100s of miles away or abroad). If an employee does not want to relocate then they may face a redundancy situation. The fact that the company has not talked to you about this is concerning and being on maternity leave you might have a claim of detrimental treatment – in other words, because you are on maternity leave they have “forgotten” to consult with you about the changes and therefore are treating you differently from employees not on maternity leave.

Similarly, changes to your employment contract, including pension, normally require the employer to consult with you first unless they are very minor changes. Again it is not clear from your question whether other employees who are not on maternity leave have been involved with consultation and that you have been missed because you are on maternity leave.

I am surprised that, as you have an HR department at work, that they have not been in touch with you around these changes. I would suggest you try to contact your line leader immediately and HR one more time. If you still do not get any response or support then you should put in a formal grievance following your companies Grievance procedure. Your final path, if you still do not get any further, is to get some further legal advice either from ACAS who provide a free, independent, confidential advice line or from a solicitor.

Good luck.

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.

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