Restructured into a lower grade job on maternity leave: ask the expert

I’m a manager, reporting to a director, and have done for five years, surviving numerous restructures. My employer and newly appointed director is now restructuring while I’m on a 12-month maternity leave. I’ve been matched to a post on the same salary, terms etc and carrying out a similar service within the company, but it is no longer in the management team. It is one of two junior jobs, reporting into a new management position. My employer feels they’ve met the maternity regulations despite it being a less senior role, purely based on the specialist service I undertook. The role has advantages to a new mum like myself in that I could earn the same with less responsibility…but I wonder whether they could eventually review and cut my salary once I’m back at work, especially as the other junior job is the same but on £10k less. In addition, I’ve been invited to apply for one of the two management roles as they are both open vacancies, but I have the skills for both of those positions due to previous jobs I’ve successfully held at this company and feel they could have just given me one of them rather than make me jump through hoops. Please advise whether it’s worth fighting or whether I should accept the offer. Thank you.

I’m sorry to hear about your situation which is, unfortunately, not uncommon. Your employer has a legal duty to provide you with a suitable alternative role with terms and conditions that are no less favourable than your previous job.

While they are offering the same salary and conditions for the new post, you have advised that the level of responsibility is reduced and have described it as a ‘junior’ role therefore, based on this information, the terms and conditions appear to be less than favourable to you.

Under current law, it is the employer’s decision whether a vacancy is a suitable alternative, although this needs to stand up to objective scrutiny. A more junior position does indicate less favourable terms and conditions, although they could argue it’s not ‘substantially less’ favourable, which is the test (depends on the level of seniority).

I would recommend that you ask your employer why they did not consider the management role as a suitable alternative for you and ask them to reconsider their position on this.

Maternity Regulations oblige employers to offer employees on maternity leave with suitable alternative jobs in situations of redundancies and restructures without requiring them to interview for the vacancy.

If you believe that you are qualified for one of the new management roles and the terms and conditions are no less, or no more, favourable than your previous job, you are correct in believing that one of those posts should have been offered to you without an interview.

If there is any evidence that the decision to give you the more junior position is in any way linked with your being on maternity leave, you could potentially have a claim for pregnancy and maternity discrimination or unlawful detriment.

If the result of your conversations is that you do move into what you believe is a more junior position, if in future your employer proposed a reduction in your salary, this could amount to a breach of contract and you should seek legal advice at the time to clarify your position and next steps.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you wish to discuss this further before meeting with your employer to address the situation.

Comments [1]

  • emz says:

    I am currently on Maternity leave. I took 9 months. I am due back to work in 12 weeks time. I have just found out from a colleague that the store has been restructured and my role doesent exsist any more. It was split from my job as a stock supervisor to a shopfloor supervisor and stock admonistrator. Clearly the shopfloor supervisor job is equivalent to my job as Stock supervisor but the stock administrator has so seniority at all. I have been told that a colleague of mine has been goven the shopfloor supervisors job and they are goin to offer me the stock administrators role. Apparantly on the same money and salary as I was b4 I went on maternity. But the role has no seniority at all. Its basocally a demotion. I have worked there 15 yrs since I left school. Im now concerned wjat my rights are? Please help.

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