Chris Hadrill, a specialist employment solicitor at Redmans, answers the question:
“What are my rights if I’m on maternity leave and have been told that my position may be made redundant?”
If you are currently on maternity leave (whether ordinary maternity leave or additional maternity leave) and have been told that your position may be made redundant, then you have the following rights:
- You are entitled to be offered any suitable alternative vacancy that is available at your employer (without having to go through a competitive interview process)
- If you are offered a suitable alternative vacancy then the work must be suitable and appropriate for you, and the capacity, place of employment, and other conditions must not be substantially less favourable than your previous position
Entitlement to be offered suitable alternative vacancies
If, while you are on maternity leave, you are told that you may be made redundant and it is not practicable for your employer to continue to employ you (for the reason of redundancy), you’re entitled to be offered a suitable alternative vacancy (if available) – this new job should start immediately after your current contract ends. You should be given priority for any suitable alternative vacancies over any member of staff who is not on maternity leave; to put it another way, if another member of staff who is not on maternity leave is offered a vacancy which is suitable for you, this would constitute discrimination.
Case law examples
Below are a few examples of case that involved employees on maternity leave being made redundant:
- Sefton Borough Council v Wainwright – employee on maternity leave discriminated against by not being given priority for suitable alternative vacancy at employer – read more (see this link for the case transcript on Bailii)
- Interserve FM Ltd v Tuleikyte – employee on maternity leave was not discriminated against by being made redundant (see this link for the case transcript on Bailii)
- Johal v Commission for Equality and Human Rights – employee on maternity leave was not discriminated against when she was made redundant, as the “reason why” she was made redundant was an administrative oversight (see this link for the case transcript on Bailii)
Practical tips for employees on maternity leave who have been told that they may be made redundant
- If you’re told that you may be made redundant then ask your employer:
- What is the rationale for redundancies?
- Who’s being made redundant, what’s the process that is being followed, and what can I expect to happen?
- Why isn’t it practicable to continue to employ me in my current position?
- Do you have any suitable alternative vacancies for me at the moment (both at your employer and at any group company)?
- Who else has been redeployed at the organisation and into what roles?
Our solicitors’ views
Chris Hadrill, a specialist employment solicitor at Redmans, commented: “If you’re on maternity leave and you’re told that you may be made redundant then you’re entitled to ‘special protection’ against dismissal – you are, for example, entitled to be prioritised for any suitable alternative vacancy. Your employer must therefore be careful to ensure that your specific circumstances are taken into consideration during the redundancy process.”