Unfortunately, even in 2024 maternity discrimination at work is still very much alive. We are often approached by women who believe they are being treated unfairly in the workplace after returning from a period of maternity leave.

Just this week, we have been assisting a lady who returned to work to find that her job had been given to her maternity cover. This type of discrimination is not uncommon and it’s important to seek legal advice to see where you stand.

What should I do if I have returned to work to find my job is no longer available?

If this has happened to you, you are undoubtedly going to feel frustrated or upset. In order to establish whether or not this act would be considered as maternity discrimination at work, the main thing we need to consider is time.

The first thing to establish is how much maternity leave was taken prior to returning to work. The reason for this, is because the right to return to the same job as before maternity leave is affected by how much maternity leave has been taken.

In the UK, an employee is entitled to take up to 52 weeks maternity leave. The first 26 weeks of this period is referred to as ‘ordinary maternity leave’. If an employee returns to work in this period, they have the right to return to the same job. Their pay and conditions must be the same as or better than before the period of maternity leave. If not, this would be considered unfair dismissal and maternity discrimination.

If someone chooses to take more than 26 weeks leave, this period is referred to as ‘additional maternity leave’. An employee would still have the right to return to their job on the same terms, but it may not be possible if there have been significant changes affecting the employer.

In this instance, the employer must offer a similar job, although this cannot be on worse terms than before.

The following terms must stay the same for the employee returning from maternity leave:

  • pay
  • benefits
  • holiday entitlement
  • location

In what instances would giving away a person’s job be considered maternity discrimination at work?

An employer should not be offering a new job role because the maternity cover has taken over the new mother’s role. This would be considered maternity discrimination.

Other examples include:

  • If the position would still exist had the lady not gone on maternity leave
  • If the new job being offered isn’t a job that the person in question could do
  • If the new job being offered did not provide the same level of pay and benefits
  • If the new job being offered did not offer the same hours – i.e. only part-time hours, even though their original position was full time, or vice versa.

What should I do if I believe I am a victim of Maternity Discrimination?

If you believe you are a victim of Maternity Discrimination, reach out to our friendly team of Employment Law Specialists. We act in a professional and confidential manner, whilst reviewing your case ad assisting you through the legal process.

You can send us a message via our online form, or call our office directly on 0161 402 0213.