I’m on maternity leave and I’ve not been treated fairly. Should I just quit?

Often, women who have received unfair treatment whilst on maternity leave e.g. being overlooked for promotion or a pay rise, would prefer to just not stay working for that employer. They also don’t wish to go through the stress of a discrimination claim through an employment tribunal. And if you feel that way, that’s understandable. But it’s worth remembering it is still possible for you to negotiate an exit Settlement Agreement that could benefit you in many ways.

But first off, let’s check what your rights actually are in order to establish if you have been treated unfairly.

What are your rights when you are on maternity leave?

There is a lot of legislation protecting women on maternity leave, so it’s not really possible to list everything here. However, there are some common breaches that take place. The rights these infringe include:

  • That you are entitled to a total of 12 months maternity leave. The first 6 months being ‘Ordinary maternity leave’, and the second 6 months ‘Additional maternity leave’.
  • After taking your ordinary maternity leave you have the right to return to your job on no less favourable terms than before.
  • If you wish to return after additional maternity leave, you have the right to return to the same job, unless it’s not practical for you to do so. If the latter is the case, you then have the right to return to a different job that is suitable… and the terms and conditions cannot be less favourable than you had before.
  • Your statutory annual paid leave must continue whilst you’re on maternity leave.
  • If the threat of redundancy rears whilst you’re away, you must be offered any suitable available vacancy, and the terms and conditions cannot be substantially less favourable.
  • If you are put at risk of redundancy whilst away on maternity leave your employer must still consult with you.
  • It is illegal for your employer to withhold any benefits like pay rises, bonuses, or promotions because you’re on maternity leave.

What should I do if I don’t think my employer’s been fair?

First things first, we’d recommend you take advice from someone who specialises in employment law. You might decide, as a result, to present an exit Settlement Agreement to your employer and it’s important you handle things correctly, in order to get the greatest benefit from doing this.

Your next step may possibly then be to ask to have a ‘without prejudice’ conversation. A ‘without prejudice’ conversation will protect the discussion from being used against you if talks about a Settlement Agreement fail in the future. It pays to think ahead.

To find out more about the next step, negotiating a Settlement Agreement whilst on maternity leave, we’ve written an overview here.

If you’d like to understand more about your situation and what you can do about it, please do give us a call on 0800 304 7255. We advise clients on how to deal with Settlement Agreements every day and are always keen to help people avoid the pitfalls often present.


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