Relocation during pregnancy: ask the expert

I was due back to work from maternity leave today. I have relocated during leave, my employer knew before I went on leave that I would need a transfer. I contacted them to arrange a position closer to home, had a meeting about a position but then was turned down because of my ‘childcare arrangements’ which isn’t necessary in order for me to go to work (I could return to my job with or without childcare). My partner also works for the company and had a meeting with his manager about his shifts, to ensure we could fit around each other (he works nights). I contacted HR who said the position didn’t exist and when they spoke to the manager it turns out she had ‘2 people lined up’ for the position.That means it can’t have been advertised internally/ externally as HR would have known. I asked HR what I do now, they said they don’t have to help as I chose to relocate and am not an ‘internal transfer’. It states in my contract I am ‘entitled to return to the work in which you were employed, or if this is not reasonably practicable, to an alternative and appropriate job’. Surely it works both ways, I haven’t made ridiculous requests for flexible hours or anything, just asked for a transfer when a job comes up. My colleagues have already been told who is getting my job and what position they will get once I have ‘given confirmation’ that I won’t be returning, so although nothing is on paper and no contracts have been changed I feel I’m being pushed out of there. I have had to extend my leave for the full 12 months now although I cannot afford to. As they know I can’t return to where I was before, they have no interest in helping me find somewhere else (maybe in the hope I leave?). HR won’t even inform me of any internally advertised positions, so I have no way of finding out about them and most vacancies for my position are usually done internally and I know for a fact that they don’t always advertise or interview for them anyway.

When you return from additional maternity leave your employer must allow you to go back to your old job unless this is not reasonably practicable, for example, because your old job has been made redundant. Where you have chosen to move, your employer is not under any obligation to find you a post nearer to your new home as the request to change location is linked to your house move rather than childcare issues. Having said that, it does appear from what you have said that your employer appears to be discriminating against you due to being on maternity leave e.g. the comments that your request can not be accommodated due to your childcare arrangements, that you were excluded from being told about the new position and that HR are refusing to tell you about any new posts coming up. You could argue that these actions have been taken due to you being on maternity leave, which would be a clear case of discrimination. You could therefore choose to resign and claim unfair dismissal and sex discrimination at an Employment Tribunal.

Before taking this step, however, it would be advisable to take further legal advice in order for the full facts of your case to be understood. It may be that submitting a grievance would be the best course of action at this stage.

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