Told that company wants to force out colleague on maternity leave: ask the expert

My colleague is on maternity leave and due back next year. In the meantime I have been offered her role and have an amendment to contract letter which stated my new job title, which is exactly the same as hers and doesn’t say ‘acting’ or ‘maternity cover’. However, it does say it is due to be reviewed next year when she is due back. The business does not want her back. I have been told this as they don’t think she is very good, but I’m now worried that they have given me her job and what if she wants to come back? I totally get that it is legally her job, but where does that leave me legally?

The lady on maternity leave looks to be taking her full entitlement to maternity leave.  During Additional Maternity Leave (weeks 27-52 of maternity leave), a woman  can only return to the same job if that is still reasonably practicable.   There is more flexibility available to the employer.  If it is no longer the case, the employer must provide her with a suitable and appropriate alternative job role.  “Suitable” and “appropriate” should be a job role as near as possible to what she was doing before she left for maternity leave.

I think that the employer has decided to do its best to fill this role with the best person and if the other lady returns from maternity leave , the employer will either need to show it wasn’t practicable for her to return and offer her an suitable alternative or it may renegotiate something else/ better with you and let the other lady return to her role. Of course the other alternative is the returning lady could be made redundant and if it is found to be by reason of her maternity leave status she will have her own unfair dismissal/sex discrimination claims.   It will all depend on what happens, when and even if the other lady returns – the bridge will need to be crossed in nearly a year’s time…In the meantime, you need to rise to the challenge and do the job.   It is in your interests for the title/change  to be permanent because you will have greater job security.  I suggest that you are confidential about it all – your employment contract is personal and none of your colleagues need to know anything further.

Comments [2]

  • Anonymous says:

    I am currently on maternity leave and I am in the process of being made redundant. I am the Office Manager at an Architectural firm and I am the only one who does this job. I completely manage the office on my own.

    I was due to go back to work at the beginning of Sept 2012 and on Fri 20th July, I received an email about possible redundancies. I am still going through the consultation process.

    As I understand this could be a case for unfair dismissal and I feel that I have been targeted because I am the only part-time worker and the new Director started his new role after I went on maternity leave. So, I haven’t been give the chance to form a relationship with the new management and feel that I have been an easy target, out of sight, out of mind.

    My question is, that the Office Manager role is still there, the work load is still there, Invoices need to be dealt with, fire regs, H&S and much more. The job has not diminished.  Please could you help me prepare my case.

    Editor: It sounds like you believe you have a case against your employer. We can offer basic employment law advice, but if you plan to take the case to tribunal, you will need full advice from a lawyer.  You could contact one of our employment lawyers – see under Advice & Support/Q & A/Expert panel, but they would charge for full legal advice rather than just basic advice and next steps. You should also check if your home insurance, if you have it, covers legal costs. Many policies do. If you contact us via Advice & Support/Q & A and fill in the box we will have your email and can direct any particular queries on next steps to our lawyers.

  • Anonymous says:

    I have returned from USA and am finding very hard to find any kind of job, I was educated and was in nursing, I found out my education holds no value and that I might have study all over again at university, I am very saddened by the fact the old nursing nurses are not validated. Anyway I am looking for any sort of job at this point, but find it very hard, I have done NVQ and other qualifactions for me to enter in some sort of employment.  Do you have any advice as to what I can do. Thank you.

    Editor: Could you post questions for our experts to the Advice and Support page/Q & A box as this means we will have your email and can get further details which might help our career adviser. Do you, for instance, mean that you cannot get back into nursery without a degree? How much nursing experience do you have and when did you last do nursing?

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