Our Employment Law solicitors answer employers’ questions on the law relating to maternity discrimination at work
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.
If your employee is returning to work after Ordinary Maternity Leave (the first 26 weeks) she is entitled to:
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 your employee refuses suitable employment, you have a legitimate redundancy situation and you would not be dismissing them unfairly.
Your employees with at least 26 weeks’ service 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:
For full details on how to handle the process see our factsheet on Flexible Working Requests.
Where you decide to reject a request, you need to be able to justify your decision with business factors such as:
Employees can be made redundant when on maternity leave, but there are strict rules that employers must follow. Someone cannot be made redundant because they are on maternity leave – this would count as automatic unfair dismissal and maternity discrimination.
If there is a genuine reason to make an employee’s role redundant, and that employee is on maternity leave, the employer must consult with them and offer then suitable alternative work if they have it. They should give an employee on maternity leave this as a priority over other employees.
When considering making redundancies, employers should always follow a fair redundancy process.
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