What are my employment rights when I am on maternity leave?
We have had cause to advise many women over infringements of their rights when they are pregnant or on maternity leave. Sometimes women are treated differently at work when their employer finds out about the pregnancy.
Employee rights aren’t usually affected when they take maternity, paternity, adoption or parental leave and some employees can work up to 10 paid days during their leave.
Employees may also be entitled to take Shared Parental Leave and can work up to 20 paid days.
Keeping in touch days
Employees can work up to 10 days during their maternity or adoption leave or 20 days during shared parental leave These days are called ‘keeping in touch days’. Keeping in touch days are optional – both the employee and employer need to agree to them.
The type of work and pay employees get should be agreed before they come into work. The employee’s right to maternity, adoption or shared parental leave and pay isn’t affected by taking keeping in touch days.
Terms and conditions protection
Normally, the employment terms and conditions are protected and employees are entitled to any pay rises and improvements in terms and conditions given during the leave.
Pension contributions usually stop if a period of leave is unpaid, unless your contract says otherwise. For example, during unpaid periods of maternity leave or parental leave.
Employees continue to build up holiday entitlement and can take any holiday they’ve accrued (built up) before or after the leave.
Returning to work
Employees have the right to return to their job if they take only:
- Ordinary Maternity or Ordinary Adoption Leave
- Ordinary Paternity Leave
- 26 weeks or less of Shared Parental Leave
- 4 weeks or less of parental leave
The rules are different if the employee takes Additional Maternity, Additional Adoption Leave, more than 26 weeks of Shared Parental Leave or more than 4 weeks of parental leave.
In this situation, employees have the right to their job or a similar job (if it’s not possible to give them their old job back). Similar means the job has the same or better terms and conditions. If the employee unreasonably refuses to take the similar job the employer can take this as their resignation.
Employees have the same redundancy rights as their colleagues while on maternity, adoption, paternity, shared parental leave or parental leave.
Employees have the right to be offered any suitable alternative job if they’re selected for redundancy (even if other colleagues are more suitable for the role) while on maternity, adoption, paternity leave or shared parental leave.
An employee can only be made redundant if the employer can clearly justify doing it – eg a part of the business closes and everyone in that section is made redundant. There are other rules for employers when making staff redundant.
Q: What can I do if I feel I am being discriminated against because I am pregnant or on maternity leave?
You should take advice before taking any steps as the way in which you handle things could affect the outcome.