Working Mums has been receiving several requests for expert help from people who have been threatened with redundancy during maternity leave or approaching maternity leave. This is a brief overview of the issues.
1. If you are worried about being pushed out while on maternity leave: you are entitled to be given your old job back if you are on ordinary maternity leave. If you are on additional maternity leave, your employer should offer you a similar role in terms of status, pay, etc and you would still be justified in questioning why you didn’t get your old job back.
2. You can be made redundant on maternity leave, but special provisions apply to protect you. You must be given first refusal on any suitable alternative employments. If your company is part of a chain, for instance, and only one branch is being closed down, they need to offer you any jobs that become available elsewhere. As with any other employee, people on maternity leave who are threatened with redundancy should be notified of the redundancy process, be consulted, be included in the pool and put forward for redeployment. Pregnancy or absence due to maternity leave should not be considered as reasons for redundancy.
3. To qualify for SMP you have to be employed for at least part of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth. Your notice period will have an effect depending on how it is treated by your company. If the company pays you in lieu of notice, your termination date will be sooner and they will simply pay you a lump sum up front. If they cannot pay you in lieu of notice or choose not to, this will extend your termination date by the period of notice you are entitled to. As long as you remain employed after the 15th week, you are entitled to maternity pay even if your employment ends. For contractual maternity pay, you normally have to return to work after your maternity pay to keep the extra, but you need to check the specific details with your employer. You will be entitled to your notice pay on top of this and this will sometimes be paid in a lump sum. If your employer asks you to sign a compromise deal it is usual practice for them to pay or contribute to your costs of seeing a solicitor to discuss the redundancy and the compromise agreement.
4. Liability for Statutory Maternity Pay will normally pass to the Secretary of State in cases where the employer is insolvent. For more information, call the Redundancy Payment Services helpline on 0845 145 0004.
5. If you are made redundant while on maternity leave, the redundancy normally becomes effective immediately, unless otherwise agreed during consultation.