Responsibilities taken away on return to work: ask the expert

There has been restructuring whilst I am on maternity leave. I was asked if I wanted a new role which was similar to the one I held previously (this was additional responsibilities to my main role). I said that I would accept this if I had to return to work full time (as I was going through a flexible working appeal). My appeal was refused. Then during informal discussions it was verbally agreed that I could return part time for one year and someone else would do my additional responsibilities and I would then pick them up after the agreed part time period. Days later I was told that I couldn’t return part time so I assumed that I would return full time with the additional responsibilities, as I had previously agreed to. In a subsequent meeting I was told, in an off the cuff remark, that my additional responsibilities had been given to someone else. At the time I didn’t say anything as I was still negotiating for a part-time return. However, now I have been told that I have to return full time and someone else is currently doing my additional responsibilities. I am not happy that I am returning on the same contract eg full time, but my management role has been taken away from me-  even if it is only for a year (and to be honest, I am not sure that I trust this would be the case!). I have had 12 months maternity. Can I refuse to have my responsibility taken away from me, given that I said I wanted to keep it if I returned full time?

An employee returning from Additional Maternity Leave (ie full 12 months of maternity leave), is entitled to return to a similar job at the same status and responsibilities. Often an employer will give an employee the same role after they return from AML but the employer does not have to – just a similar role is sufficient.

From your information it sounds like the management have not handled your return to work very effectively – “informal” conversations with you; one minute you have additional responsibilities in your role, the next you don’t. In essence, legally they have to provide you with a role of similar status and responsibilities. By taking away your management component they are not following this statutory requirement and you might well have a claim for sex discrimination.

The fact that you applied to go part time after your return from maternity leave and this was declined might well strengthen your case. The flexible working legislation in the UK does not give an employee the right to be given part-time work, but gives them the right to request it and requires the employer to give it serious consideration
– a process that is clearly laid down in law. You don’t give any details as to why your request was turned down and there may have been robust reasons that your employer can defend if challenged in a tribunal.

I would suggest that you talk to your employer again in a formal meeting, not an aside conversation. If you have an HR Department I would certainly contact them. You may want to lodge it as a formal Grievance since then your employer is obliged to follow legal process to address your concerns. Your company should have a Grievance procedure written down perhaps in an Employee Handbook, otherwise if you will be able to find the statutory procedure on the ACAS website.

If your Grievance still does not lead you to get your job with full responsibilities back then I would suggest that you need to seek legal advice. You could start with ACAS who run an independent advice line and/or from an employment 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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