Redundancy On Maternity Leave

Posted: Friday May 26 2017

By: Abbie Coleman

My workplace is keeping the person recruited to cover my maternity leave. Can my employer do this whilst I'm on maternity leave?

Redundancy On Maternity Leave

By Marie Walsh

I have recently received an enquiry from a reader that may be of interest all around when is redundancy not redundancy. The question was:

I am returning from maternity leave, but I’ve heard that I may be redundant. However, the company is keeping the person recruited to cover my maternity leave. Can my employer do this?

The simple answer to this is no, they can’t.

An employer can legitimately make you redundant whilst on maternity leave. The redundancy has to be genuine. Then the redundancy procedure is followed only if the redundancy is not caused by the pregnancy or maternity leave itself.

A genuine redundancy situation comes about because your:

  • employer’s need for employees to do work of a particular kind has ended or diminished;
  • workplace closes;
  • employer goes out of business.

If, whilst you are on maternity leave, your employer advises that your role is redundant, it will not be a genuine redundancy where:

  • your employer permanently gives your duties to someone else during your maternity leave. Then doesn’t allow you to come back at the end of your maternity leave; or
  • your employer appoints a new employee during your maternity leave. They then take over your duties which makes you redundant because they say your job no longer exists.

The Next Steps of Redundancy On Maternity Leave

The dismissal would probably be deemed unfair and potentially discriminatory in these circumstances. You would enable you to lodge a claim in the Employment Tribunal. This needs to be done within the applicable time limits. Typically 3 months from the date of the dismissal or from the act of discrimination.

Employers also need to keep in touch and properly consult employees at risk of redundancy whilst on maternity leave. Even if there is a genuine concern that they do not want to worry or disturb an employee. Failure to do so is also likely to be discriminatory and make the process unfair.

An employer should also take care when applying selection criteria. For example, the employer should discount any pregnancy/maternity-related sickness period to ensure that maternity leave is not disadvantaged.

If faced with the threat of redundancy during the “protected period” (the beginning of pregnancy to the end of maternity leave), special provisions apply to prevent unfavourable treatment of women. These include the right to be offered a suitable alternative job (if one is available) before it’s offered to any other employee, without having to apply for it or being interviewed for the role.

If you have experienced any similar issues, you should seek legal advice as quickly as possible as the time limit for bringing a claim to the Tribunal is extremely short.

Check out our post about “Rights When Pregnant And On Maternity Leave”.

Useful Links: Maternity Action

#Maternity Leave #Redundancy

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