In the United Kingdom, when you return to work after Ordinary Maternity Leave (after the first 26 weeks of your Statutory Maternity Leave), you are entitled to the same job role and the terms and conditions should be as they were before you went on leave.
This also applies when you return to work after Additional Maternity Leave (after the last 26 weeks of your Statutory Maternity Leave).
If your original job doesn’t exist or there is some other reasonably practical reason you cannot continue in your previous job profile, it is the responsibility of your employer to offer you an alternative job role with the same terms and conditions as the original work profile.
Giving Notice Of Your Return To Work
Ideally, the employer will assume that you will require all 52 weeks of the Statutory Maternity Leave. Therefore, if you return to work after completing your Statutory Maternity Leave, you don’t need to give any notice to your employer that you will be returning to work.
On the other hand, if you wish to return before the Statutory Maternity Leave ends, you must give at least eight weeks’ notice. Otherwise, your employer may insist that you complete the leave period.
In your notice, you must specify that you:
- are returning to work early;
- wish to change the date of your return;
Compulsory Maternity Leave
After childbirth, you must take at least two weeks off work (this is called Compulsory Maternity Leave.) If you work in a factory, you must take at least four weeks of compulsory leave.
If you do not wish to take the complete maternity leave period of 52 weeks, you need to give at least 8 weeks’ notice to the employer of your return. Without prior notice, your employer is entitled to refuse to pay you until the eight-week notice period has ended.
Your Rights on Return From Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML)
UK employment law stipulates that you can take Ordinary Maternity Leave of 26 weeks, provided you give at least 8 weeks’ notice to your employer, informing them of your return.
The law also entitles you to continue work on the same job profile and terms and conditions once you return during or at the end of your OML period. If your employer doesn’t allow you to return or refuses to give your old job back, you may be able to make claim for pregnancy discrimination and/or unfair dismissal.
Also, if you return to work early, both you and your partner may qualify for Shared Parental Pay and Leave, which must be taken within a year of the childbirth.
Your Rights on Return From Additional Maternity Leave (AML)
Similar to the Ordinary Maternity Leave, you are entitled to return to work during or at the end of Additional Maternity Leave. However, if your employer is able to show that it is not reasonably feasible for you to return to the same job role, they need to offer you a suitable alternative job role but similar terms and conditions as your previous job.
On receiving a different job role or shift timings on your return from Additional Maternity Leave, you must consult an experienced employment law solicitor to find out whether this change would allow for you to make a claim for maternity discrimination.
You may have a claim if your employer didn’t have any consultation with you prior to making such job changes because of reorganisation or redundancy. In case, a redundancy takes effect while you were on maternity leave, employment law in the UK entitles you to a suitable alternative vacancy as well.
Tackling Unfair Treatment After Returning To Work
On your return, if your employer decides to make you redundant, in order to avoid the responsibility of offering suitable alternative work or dismisses you because of changes to your job role during your maternity leave, you can get legal assistance to make a claim for automatic maternity discrimination and/or unfair dismissal.
After the completion of maternity leave, you have the right to return to your old job role and on the same terms and conditions.
You can also request for a change of shift timings or opt for flexible work options, provided you have completed at least 26 weeks of employment with your employer.
Your employer must seriously consider your request for flexible work timings and can only refuse on reasonably practicable business reasons.
If your employer refuses to do this, UK employment law entitles you to a claim for indirect sex discrimination.