Will I be forced to cover for redundant colleagues on return from maternity leave?

I am going back to work later this year and had already confirmed in writing my intended plan and to go back three days a week using my accrued holiday. I was told that they would discuss and get back to me. A month later and I chased, having heard nothing, to find there was a company meeting they had forgotten to invite me to, but that they would ring and update me. The upshot of this call was that people in my team were being made redundant and that they want me to go in in two weeks to discuss my restructured role on the back of this. I know they are getting rid of my colleague who does the other half of my similar workload and my assistant so I am pretty sure they are about to try and push a load more work on me on my return. There is a lot of advice given for if you are made redundant while on maternity, but what happens if you are expected to take on more when you return. I have no problem working hard, but feel I do not want to go back into a job where I am overworked doing two people’s jobs due to them making my male higher paid colleague redundant while I was off. I feel I would have liked to be consulted before the decision was made as I might have volunteered for redundancy myself rather than be pressured into taking a increased role, especially when I was hoping to work three days a week when I return. What rights do I have in all this?

Unfavourable treatment because of maternity leave is unlawful. If you were not consulted about the changes in your department (and lost the opportunity to volunteer for redundancy) because you were on maternity leave, you might have a claim for discrimination.

However, if the reason you were not invited to the meeting was not your maternity leave but because your employer only met with those selected for redundancy, there would be no claim for discrimination. There is no right to volunteer for redundancy: whilst employers are encouraged to use voluntary redundancy as an alternative to compulsory redundancies, many will not invite volunteers from roles or parts of the business they want to keep.

If your workload does increase beyond anyone’s realistic capability, you might argue that this is a breach of contract and that you could resign and claim constructive dismissal. You would have to take specific advice at that time about the circumstances on your return, and what has happened with the workload.

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