Last year I was made aware my job was being relocated to another office which is not within commutable distance, I found this out through overhearing a conference call. I was pregnant at the time and the consultation began just before I went on maternity leave and it was agreed that my consultation discussions would be postponed until my return.
The rest of my team went through the consultation and some have taken redundancy and others have relocated on a temporary basis. Prior to finding out about the relocation an agreement had been made between myself and my line manager that upon my return I would work four days and one of those days could be from home, which apparently now is not possible.
Whilst I have been on maternity leave there have been restructures in other departments too and vacancies have arisen which I have not been made aware of. Some are on my level, though not exactly the same, but I have the skills for them. There have also been some lesser paid jobs become available on a part-time basis which I may have considered had I been made aware a position had become available.
My question is, although they are probably alternative vacancies as opposed to suitable alternative vacancies, should I have been made aware of these during my maternity leave and if so am I right in thinking I can pursue an unfair dismissal case in line with section 10 of maternity law? I was not actually in formal consultation during my maternity leave. However, they knew of my risk of redundancy prior to this and I was in consultation until both parties agreed that I opt out.
Regulation 10 applies where, during your maternity leave, it is “not practicable by reason of redundancy” to continue to employ you. It gives you the right to be offered suitable alternative employment on not substantially less favourable terms. What is suitable alternative employment will depend on your skills and experience and the nature of the role. Whether or not the roles you are considering would be a suitable alternative will depend on whether or not you have the skills and experience to carry this out. You should have been offered any suitable alternative roles whether or not you were actually going through a redundancy consultation if it was clear that your job became redundant during your maternity leave.
Even if there were no suitable alternative roles caught by Regulation 10, you could have a claim for maternity discrimination if you were treated unfavourably because of your maternity leave. If you would have been informed about these vacancies (or could have found them on an internal intranet or similar), had you not been on maternity leave, you could have a claim for maternity discrimination on the basis you have lost the chance to apply for them. This would apply to both the alternative roles and part-time roles.
If you do want to reach settlement with your employer, you should make sure to contact ACAS for Early Conciliation as soon as possible and within three months from the date of the discrimination as you might otherwise lose your opportunity to bring an Employment Tribunal claim.