If you are entitled to maternity leave you must take at least two weeks compulsory maternity leave after the baby is born. You are legally entitled to take up to 52 weeks maternity leave. It is assumed that you will return at the end of the 52 weeks unless you give eight weeks’ notice of earlier return. The same applies to adoption leave. If you are a factory worker you are not allowed to work for four weeks after the birth.
If you intend to take 52 weeks maternity leave you do not have to tell your employer the date of your return. If you want to return earlier you must give your employer eight weeks’ notice before the date you plan to return.
An employer can ask when you are going to return to work. It is advisable to provide as much information as you can, but you should not:
- Be put under pressure to provide information about when you will return before you are obliged to do so.
- Be told you will be disadvantaged if you do not return early, for example by saying that you will miss out on training or promotion.
- Be disadvantaged if you do not return earlier that you are obliged.
- Be disadvantaged if you change your mind about when you will return.
Yes. If you want to return to work sooner than 52 weeks, you have to give eight weeks’ notice; you can return after the eight weeks have lapsed. It is advisable to tell your employer the date you plan to return to work as soon as possible to make it easier for both of you to plan.
If you give less than eight weeks’ notice, your employer can decide whether or not they agree to you returning earlier than the end of the required eight weeks’ notice.
An employer cannot postpone your return from maternity leave unless you are returning before 52 weeks’ leave without giving the required notice.
Provided you have given appropriate notice of your return it would be maternity discrimination to postpone your return to work.
It is advisable to have a discussion with your employer about when you intend to return to work as early as possible. It is important to remember that:
- Communication helps avoid disputes.
- If you change your mind once you are on maternity leave and want to return earlier or later, you should give your employer as much notice as possible, that is more than the required eight weeks’ notice.
- Changing your return date may impact on your employer’s planning so try to minimise any disruption by staying in touch and informing them early on. If they know why you have changed your mind they may understand better.
It is advisable to contact your employer in writing, asking for confirmation about your return to work and that you will be returning to the same job. If you are treated unfavourably because of your maternity leave this would be maternity discrimination.
You are entitled to return to exactly the same job that you did before the start of your maternity leave. The terms of your employment must be the same as they would have been, had you not been on maternity leave.
If you are not allowed to return to the same job and this is because of your maternity leave (for example the job has been given to the locum) this would be maternity discrimination.
If you return to work after more than 26 weeks leave (additional maternity leave) your employer is legally required to ensure that you return to the same job, unless this is not reasonably practicable. Your employer must first consider whether you can return to the same job. If there is a very good reason why your old job is no longer available (for example because the business has changed) your employer must offer you a suitable alternative job.
A suitable alternative job must be:
- Suitable and appropriate, for example, it should not be at a different location, which is difficult to travel to.
- On terms and conditions of employment, which are ‘no less favourable’ than your previous job.
If your employer doesn’t offer you the same job or a suitable alternative job because you have been on maternity leave, then this is maternity discrimination.
No. Your employer cannot move you to a different job because they prefer the person they have employed to cover your maternity leave. This would be maternity discrimination.
This will depend on what kind of leave you take and how much leave you take in total. For example, if you return to work after adding four weeks parental leave or less at the end of your ordinary maternity leave you will still be entitled to return to the same job. However, if you return to work after adding more than four weeks of parental leave at the end of your ordinary maternity leave you are treated in the same way as if you returned from additional maternity leave. This means that if your employer can show that it is not reasonably practicable to give you the same job, you must be offered a suitable alternative. Taking other kinds of statutory family leave at the end of your ordinary maternity leave can affect your right to return to the same job and you should take advice before doing so.
It depends if you are returning to work after ordinary maternity leave or additional maternity leave. If you are returning after ordinary maternity leave you have to be allowed to return to the same job. If you are returning after additional maternity leave then the changes in the business may mean it is not reasonably practicable for you to return to the same job. Your employer is then allowed to offer you a suitable alternative job instead. The position is different if your job is redundant.
If you are given a different job on your return to work and this is partly or wholly due to your absence on maternity leave, this would be maternity discrimination if the new job is worse than your previous job. If you returned after ordinary maternity leave you have a legal right to return to the same job. If you returned after additional maternity leave you have a legal right to return to the same job unless it is not reasonably practical, in which case your employer is allowed to offer a suitable alternative job instead.
If part of your job has been taken away this may be maternity discrimination if the reason is because you were on maternity leave. First, you should talk to your employer and ask that you have all your responsibilities back. If this does not happen you could bring a grievance or, if you do not want to stay, resign and claim that you have been constructively dismissed. You should take legal advice before claiming constructive dismissal because if you resign when you were not entitled to do so you will not be able to claim unfair dismissal. You do not have to resign to bring a discrimination claim against your employer.
I am not sure we make this point in other documents when we mention constructive dismissal and we should do so.
It is advisable to contact your employer in writing and explain that you need to know what your hours will be so you can plan your return, for example make appropriate childcare arrangements. If you made a formal request to change your working hours, your employer is legally required to deal with that request in a reasonable manner within three months.
Last updated: 12 May 2016