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Martin Searle Solicitors

FAQs: Maternity Discrimination At Work

Our employment law solicitors answer employers’ questions on the law relating to maternity discrimination at work.

  1. My employee wants to return from maternity leave earlier than she thought. This isn’t convenient. What can I do?
  2. Since my employee has been on maternity leave the department has been reorganised and her job has changed. What should I do?
  3. On returning from maternity leave, my employee would like to work part time; do I have to accommodate that?

My employee wants to return from maternity leave earlier than she thought. This isn’t convenient. What can I do?

New mums who want to return to work before the end of their full 52-week maternity leave must give eight weeks’ notice. But you could decide to accept less or no notice at all. If, as in this case, the earlier date is not suitable – perhaps you have to provide notice to a temporary worker or make other arrangements – you can postpone it until the full eight weeks’ notice. You cannot do this, however, if your preferred date is after the 52-week maternity leave entitlement.

Since my employee has been on maternity leave the department has been reorganised and her job has changed. What should I do?

If your employee is returning to work after Ordinary Maternity Leave (the first 26 weeks) she is entitled to:

  • Return to the same job on the same terms and conditions as if she had not been absent, unless a redundancy situation has arisen
  • The same entitlements as normally apply to women returning after Additional Maternity Leave (from the 27th week onwards)

If there are redundancies and you select her for redundancy, ensure that the decision is not because of or connected to her pregnancy or you will be liable for discrimination and unfair dismissal. If it is not reasonably practical for you to take her back in the same job, you should offer ‘suitable alternative work’. If you fail to do so, any dismissal would automatically be unfair. On the other hand, if no suitable alternative exists or if the employee refuses suitable employment, you have a legitimate redundancy situation and you would not be dismissing unfairly.

On returning from maternity leave, my employee would like to work part time; do I have to accommodate that?

Parents of children under the age of 17 (or under 18 if the child is disabled) have the right to request flexible working. As an employer you are legally obliged to give the request serious consideration. In general terms, this means you should:

  • Ask for it in writing
  • Hold a meeting with the employee to discuss it
  • Provide a decision in writing
  • Give the employee the right to appeal

For full details on how to handle the process see the gov.uk website for general advice.

Where you decide to reject a request, you need to be able to justify your decision with business factors such as:

  • Additional costs
  • Impact on customers, products/services or colleagues
  • Inability to reorganise work or recruit staff

For more information about how our expert employment lawyers can help you, contact us today on 01273 609911, or email info@ms-solicitors.co.uk.

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