Role being downgraded on return from maternity leave: ask the expert

I have worked for my company for 10 years and am due to return from maternity leave in the next few weeks. I am a senior member of my team and a line manager to one person. During my maternity leave a secondment was brought in to fill my role from another department. I had a meeting yesterday regarding my return and was told on my return I would no longer be managing that person. This has left me feeling vulnerable for my future as without managing I am basically the same as the rest of the team and worry that they are planning on making me redundant as soon as they can. My secondment is also staying on in the department rather than going back to there initial role. I am on a better package than the other members of the team. Are  they legally able to take my management from me without justification? And secondly can they down grade me or make me redundant?

It is not clear from your question whether you are returning from Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML) or Additional Maternity Leave (AML). If you are returning from OML (i.e. you have not taken more than 6 months maternity leave), you are entitled to return to the same job (which includes the same status). This means that you would have to be allowed to keep your management responsibilities (subject to some limited exceptions).

However, if you are returning from AML and it is not ‘reasonably practicable’ for you to return to your old job, then your employer must offer you a ‘suitable and appropriate’ alternative job. Your employer must have considered whether it was reasonably practicable for you to return to your old job and must have reasons to show why it was not reasonably practicable. They must then offer you a suitable and appropriate alternative job. It is arguable that the job you are coming back to is not suitable and appropriate given that your management responsibility has been removed. I would need to talk to you about the reasons given to you by your employer in order to advise you properly on this point.

In terms of solutions, you can raise a grievance about the situation and if that does not resolve the matter then you can look at resigning and bringing a constructive unfair dismissal and sex discrimination claim. However, do take further legal advice before going down this route. Once you return from maternity leave, your employer can carry out a redundancy exercise and make you redundant (provided a fair procedure is followed and it is a genuine redundancy).

Comments [2]

  • Kris Palmer says:

    My wife is due to return to work in Feb after AML, before going on maternity she was a store manager. This meant she had responsibility to the staff for training and compliance monitoring. She has never signed a new contract to state she has had her role downgraded. Recently she received a letter from HR to ask about her return as a team manager which is a lower position as this is arguably a senior sales role only and she will not be involved in complete management and branch control. Is this fair and what options does she have.

  • Anonymous says:

    Hi im on maternity leave but when im due to return to work I want to change my job im getting smp i recieved a letter from my employer saying I can hand my notice in whilst on maternity leave but will I have to pay any money back.

    Editor: Not if you are just getting SMP and no extra company maternity pay.

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