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.