Wife’s job changed after maternity leave

My wife is an operations manager of a regulatory / compliance team in an asset management firm. My wife has worked for the organisation for over five years and in the last few years it has been common knowledge that her manager will retire at some stage and that she would be in line to be his successor. Throughout her years at the company she has consistently performed to a high standard as evidenced by performance reviews and bonuses. Upon returning from maternity leave she was told that the person who had provided cover for her had been made permanent and had been booked on overseas business my wife normally goes on.  Since her return it has been made clear that the cover resource has been kept on to be entirely focused on the project side of things and that therefore my wife’s responsibilities have been significantly affected. It is our belief that the company have heavily changed my wife’s job role without prior communication or discussion – in turn this also impacts her future career prospects immensely. This is not the avenue that we would have liked to go down. However, my wife has sought to address the matter informally but been met with aggression and a lack of understanding. My wife loved her job, but this has changed due entirely to the company’s actions, meaning that the last five years of her career and the future prospects are now under threat. Hence we had no other option but to go down a more formal route.

Your wife had the right to return to her job, or if that is not practical, a suitable alternative. It appears that your wife has notionally returned to the same job, but has found that many of its functions are now being carried out by this new resource. It might be argued that in effect it is not practical to return to the same job because of the increase in project work making it too much for one person. The question would then be whether or not what she is now doing is a suitable alternative for her. This can be quite difficult to establish, though if your wife can point to a significant drop in status she might be able to argue this.

She has arguably suffered maternity discrimination and then victimisation when she raised this informally with her manager.

Raising the grievance was the correct approach, though your wife should also bear in mind the short three-month time limit to bring a Tribunal claim. I would advise that she contacts ACAS to commence Early Conciliation no later than 15 April in order to “stop the clock” for the time limit. She can do this by filling out this online form: https://ec.acas.org.uk/Submission/Create

If the grievance is not resolved to her satisfaction, I suggest that your wife gets specific legal advice to take account of the outcome. Her options include resigning and claiming constructive dismissal as well as discrimination. That is, of course, the “nuclear option” and I am sure not one she can or would entertain lightly.


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