I recently had a meeting with HR and so I am clear on the organisation’s policy now regarding women on maternity leave going through restructures, but I just wanted to check if it is correct. They told me that if there were no suitable posts left in our restructure, I would go on redeployment and I would be given priority access for posts. However, there have been very few posts on redeployment recently for my current grade so if I decide not to apply for anything in my team’s restructure whilst on maternity leave I run the risk of redundancy. They recommended that I should apply for jobs within the restructure,as I wouldn’t get priority on posts within my team whilst on maternity leave and I would only be offered what is left, if anything, when I am at the point of redundancy. The risk with this, though, is that if there were no suitable posts at my grade and I choose to apply for something at a lower grade, I wouldn’t get pay protection. Also, I would need to apply for flexible working as it would be a new job and there are no guarantees it would be granted and if I refused a job as it was full time and I wanted part-time hours, I wouldn’t be entitled to redundancy pay. So in some ways I would be better taking voluntary redundancy as there are a lot of unknowns if/when I return to work after my maternity leave. Is this correct?
What they are saying is totally incorrect. Note the case of Sefton Borough Council v Wainwright UKEAT 0168/14. In this case, the EAT held that the duty to offer a suitable alternative vacancy arises when the employer becomes aware that the employee’s role is redundant or potentially redundant. They should not therefore be waiting for your return to work before offering you a suitable alternative role as all vacancies may well have been filled by then. The employer must offer a suitable alternative in the new structure now. Also note that the EAT made it very clear that the employee should not be required to take part in a competitive interview for the post. She should simply be offered the post.
In relation to having to accept a lower paid role, this should not happen as you should be offered a suitable alternative on no less favourable terms within the new structure as soon as the positions become available. In relation to flexible working, you should make an application for this just prior to your return from maternity leave.
*Sarah Calderwood assisted in answering this question.