Not given anything to do since returning from maternity leave

I have returned to work for two months now and still have no idea what my role will be. I have been on maternity leave for six months and have been told that my previous responsibilities won’t be coming back into my remit once I am back. Instead I was moved into a new team that is undergoing constant redefining and re-designation. At the moment I come to my desk and stare at my screen until it’s time to go home. I am yet to see a proper job description that clarifies and sets out my responsibilities. I haven’t had a review in 20 months, having been ignored in the 2017 annual run (I left one month before the reviews were due). Upon request I was given a dodgy reason which made it obvious that they did not bother to do one because I was on maternity leave. I am bound by contract or have to repay the extra maternity pay if I leave earlier than six months after return. My issue is that up until now I have not been offered an alternative to my previous role even though I have returned to work and my managers do not seem to bother to do so. I find it really hard to motivate myself to get up in the morning and am desperate for help to get me out of this misery.

I understand that you returned to work two months ago following a six month maternity leave (ML).  Upon your return, you were told that you would not have your previous responsibilities, although you do not say what these were or whether there has ever been any discussion about any changes to your role either prior to or after returning.

You confirm that you were moved into a new team that is undergoing constant redefinition and re-designation and that you have been given no defined role or proper job description. Furthermore you confirm that you have not had a review for 20 months, having missed out on the last review due to being on ML.  You also confirm that you are bound by contract to repay the extra maternity pay you received if you leave without completing six months’ return of service.

When you return to work after a period of ML which is 26 weeks or less, you are entitled to return to the job in which you were employed before your absence with your seniority, pension rights and similar rights as they would have been had you not gone on ML and on terms and conditions no less favourable than those which would have been applied had you not been absent; i.e. you have the right to return to exactly the same job you left and to be treated as if you had never been absent.  You should be paid the same rate of pay that would have been payable had you not been on ML and this includes any pay increases that would have been awarded during ML.  When you return to work after a period of ML which is longer than 26 weeks then you have the same rights, except that if reinstatement in your old job is not reasonably practicable you employer can offer you another job which is both suitable for you and appropriate for you to do in the circumstances.

I think you would benefit from some clarity in relation to the role that you are now performing. If you are getting no response from your managers, then the best way to move this forward would be for you to request a meeting with HR to discuss what you/they think your current role involves and also raise the issue that you appear to have missed out on a pay rise (if this is what you meant by a review) due to you being absent on ML. If this does not resolve the matter, you should submit a formal grievance about the way your return to work has been handled in relation to the fact that you appear to have missed out on a pay rise due to being on ML. If this doesn’t resolve matters, I would suggest that you take further specific legal advice in relation to possible next steps and specifically a potential pregnancy/maternity discrimination claim. An employee who has taken ML is entitled not to be subjected to any detriment by any act or failure to act by an employer because you took ML.  Please be aware that any claim for pregnancy or maternity discrimination must be submitted in a tribunal within three months of the discriminatory act, which in this case would be your return to work date, and that you need to go through the ACAS pre-conciliation process before a claim would be accepted by the tribunal.

You may also have a claim for constructive unfair dismissal if you resign in response to your employer’s treatment of you (NB I would always advise you to take specific legal advice before you resign from your employment). The time limit for this claim would be three months from your resignation and again, you would need to go through the ACAS pre-conciliation process before a tribunal would accept your claim.

In the first instance, I would advise you meet with HR and then raise a grievance in relation to the treatment your have been subjected to. If this does not resolve matters, I would advise you to take further specific legal advice in relation to your situation and next steps.

Should you require any further advice, please contact Tracey Guest on 0161 672 1425.

*Lucy Flynn assisted in answering this question.

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