Review announced just before maternity leave: ask the expert

I work for a Local Authority – 0.6 as one manager and 0.4 as another.  I am nearly 30 weeks pregnant and will be leaving to go on maternity leave soon.  I found out this week that there is going to be a review of my directorate and all recruitment has been frozen, including maternity cover.  This obviously makes me feel very vulnerable, even though I have been reassured that this is simply a cost saving exercise and not specific to my posts – it does not mean they are going to be redundant. I have today been told that I will be having a meeting with my jobshare, my manager and HR next week where they will start a review of our service and discuss cost saving opportunities.  I have been told that there may be some changes, but that they want to avoid redundancies so it’s about reviewing what is required in order for us to deliver on our duties. This will just be a discussion and a starting point of a review.  I am obviously extremely anxious for the future and would like some advice on the following: What are my rights now and once I am on maternity leave in terms of consultation and redundancy.  I plan to return to work full-time in 6 months as I am the main breadwinner? I am very concerned that any changes between now and when I leave will have a potential impact on my maternity pay.  Maternity leave will be a struggle as I stand so if my salary changes between now and then, I am seriously concerned for my health and wellbeing due to the fact that I will have to return far sooner. What are my rights in terms of my maternity pay? Can this change between now and the start of November? If any potential consultation starts within the next few weeks, where do I stand with my salary and therefore my maternity pay? My anxiety is extremely high and I would be extremely grateful for advice on these matters.

This is a very stressful situation and I am sorry that you are experiencing this during the late stages of your pregnancy. I can reassure you, however, that the law does protect you both during pregnancy and thereafter.

Your employer should only change your terms and conditions, including your salary, after first consulting with you and obtaining your consent. If indeed they do proceed with a proposal to reduce your pay, they would have to justify this by providing objective business reasons for doing so. They would also have to balance their business case for introducing a pay cut against the effect this would have on you and your colleagues. They would also have to act reasonably and fully consult with you at all stages of the process. If the proposed changes were in any way connected to your pregnancy, or your anticipated absence on maternity leave, then they would be unlawful. As you are pregnant you are protected against unfair treatment or discrimination which is related to your pregnancy.

In respect of maternity pay, if you are eligible for statutory maternity pay then any pay cut is unlikely to affect the initial payment of SMP given the proximity of your due date. However, it may have an impact on any enhanced maternity pay offered by your employer. You may want to check your contract to see if you are entitled to enhanced maternity pay and the terms of this payment.

If it transpires that your role will be made redundant during your maternity leave, you will be entitled to priority treatment over other colleagues and your employer is obligated by law to offer you another suitable position (if one is available) before any other employees. It is also important to note that whilst the fact of your pregnancy does not prevent your employer from making your role redundant (if a true redundancy situation exists), if your pregnancy was in any way to influence your employer’s decision to make your role redundant this would be unlawful. An employer is also obliged to fully consult with you about any redundancy situation, even if you are on maternity leave.

Please note that if you were made redundant during your maternity leave, you will still be entitled to receive statutory maternity pay.

It may be useful for you to know that new Shared Parental Leave rights are due to come into force on 1 December which would give you the right to share the time off work with your “partner so for example, you could return to work for part of the time and then resume the rest of your leave at a later date.

It is worth raising your very valid concerns with your employer sooner rather than later and checking the maternity leave terms and conditions within your employment contract. If you are still worried about this, please don’t hesitate to contact me for an informal chat.

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