I’m on maternity (8.5 months) and just had a consultation and have been told my job no longer exists. I have been shown two jobs that I’ve been invited to state an interest in. I was also told there are two candidates, including myself, and two positions. I am only interested in one of the roles they’ve shown me. The other role on paper fits my skills, but knowing the detail from working there I know it is not as good and they have made the role sound better than it really is. What are my rights in terms of stating interest in only one role? And what is the best approach to do this? Is it likely that if I am not successful with the role I want that they offer me the other one anyway and therefore a redundancy package is not an option?
Employment law includes specific protection for pregnant women to ensure that any difficulties are minimised and that you are not disadvantaged because of your pregnancy or subsequent maternity leave.
If the reason that your job no longer exists is related to the fact that you have been on maternity leave then this would be unlawful.
During what is known as the ‘protected period’ women are entitled to special consideration from the beginning of their pregnancy through to the end of their maternity leave. Assuming the redundancy situation is genuine and not related to the fact that you are on maternity leave, your employer is obligated by law to offer you suitable positions which it appears they have complied with. You are also entitled to be given priority over your colleague, provided that they are not also pregnant or currently taking maternity leave.
An additional benefit in these circumstances is that you should not have to go through an interview for the role you have identified as most suitable and you are entitled to expect terms and conditions that are no less favourable than the role you fulfilled before going on maternity leave.
From the information you have provided I see no reason why you would be rejected for the role you would prefer. This would only become complicated if the other candidate is also pregnant or on maternity leave and also states that she wants the same position (making the assumption that the other candidate is indeed female).
There would be an issue if you refused a suitable offer of alternative employment as any subsequent dismissal for redundancy is likely to be fair. Furthermore, if you unreasonably refuse the offer you will also lose your right to a redundancy payment. For it to be suitable it would have to be appropriate and not on substantially less favourable terms than your current position. Whether it would be reasonable for you to refuse such an offer would depend upon a number of factors, including your individual circumstances.
If you are offered the alternative role for any reason on terms that are different to your existing contract, you are entitled to a 4-week trial period to see if the new role is suitable for you. This should start from the date you return from Statutory Maternity Leave. Your employer should explain this to you in writing if / when offering you the alternative job.
If the alternatives suggested are difficult for you to fulfil because of the fact that you now have parental duties then you should also consider submitting a flexible working request.
If you are unable to reach a reasonable solution with your employer as set out above, I would recommend that you seek specialist legal advice before taking your next step.