Offered new job then got pregnant: ask the expert

I was formally offered a post last year and went through all pre-employment checks etc, but the start date was continually delayed. In the meantime I fell pregnant and by the time they offered me work I was off sick in my current job with pregnancy-related complications. I told my potential employer that my start date woud have to be delayed until next month when I finish my maternity leave. However, I have now extended my leave to the end of March, utilising my full 39 weeks as my daughter has been unwell. I have been in contact with the new employer and they have said there is no guarantee there will be a post for me at end of March and I will have to wait till something comes up. The problem is, my current job is a fixed-term contract and actually ends the same day as my maternity leave. Where do I stand on both issues please? I cannot afford to be out of work.

I understand that you are employed by employer A on a fixed term contract which is due to finish at the end of March 2013. You are currently on maternity leave and your maternity leave is due to finish at the end of March 2013. You were offered a job a year ago with employer B and agreed a start date of November 2012, however you have now asked them to delay the start date until March 2013 and they have said they can not guarantee that the job will be open at that time.

Dealing with employer A, as you have over one year’s service, they are obligated to look for alternative employment for you and to consult with you over the ending of your fixed term contract. You should therefore contact them and ask about alternative positions for you to move into. If employer A chooses not to renew your fixed term contract or fails to offer you a new job due to being on maternity leave then you would have a claim for sex discrimination and unfair dismissal. Equally if they do not follow a consultation procedure prior to the end of your fixed term contract then you may have a claim for unfair dismissal.

In relation to employer B, a contract of employment exists where an offer of employment has been made and accepted. In this case, you have been offered a job, accepted it and agreed a start date but then you have requested to delay that start date. Employer B may choose to refuse your suggestion of a new start date and take your refusal to strat on the agreed date as a decision to reject the offer of employment. If employer B decide not to allow your start date to be delayed because you are on maternity leave then again this would be sex discrimination.

In summary I suggest that you write to both employers, ask employer A to detail what other jobs are available and write to employer B explaining that you are on maternity leave, that you understood you were employed by them and therefore that your job would be open until the end of your maternity leave.

Sarah Calderwood assisted with the answer to this question.

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