Updated: Mar 16
According to the Office for National Statistics, 26 September is the most common date to give birth. Additionally, figures from the Institute of Fiscal Studies show that 70% of women with children are in employment. This is a 50% rise over the last 40 years and it’s a significant change compared the rights of working women in the 1950s when having a child almost certainly meant not being able to work after childbirth until their children were much older.
These days, this might sound encouraging for mums who either want or have to continue working after maternity leave. However, according to the Women and Equalities Committee, pregnancy and maternity discrimination is currently at its highest level for more than a decade. So, it’s not surprising that maternity leave and returning to work afterwards can cause some mums to be concerned about their rights about returning to work.
Most new mums know that they are entitled to one year's maternity leave, regardless of their length of service. But recent research suggests that 40% of women are not aware that they can often share their maternity leave with their partners under the Shared Parental Leave Regulations 2014. There are some other rights that are even less well known, here are a few examples:
If you are on maternity leave, and there is a pay rise while you are absent, then you must be considered for a pay rise even though you are not at work. Any pay rise should be backdated to the beginning of your maternity leave, regardless of the period the pay rise covers.
If you earn more than the statutory rate of Statutory Maternity Pay which is currently £145.18 a week, then the pay rise will not affect your salary after your first six weeks of leave because the amount you are entitled to is capped after this point. However, any pay rise will result in an increase in pay for the first six weeks of your leave, which is calculated at 90% of your earnings unless you usually earn less than the statutory rate of Statutory Maternity Pay.
Redundancy consultation and selection
It’s a misconception that when you are on maternity leave that you cannot be selected for redundancy. Although you cannot be selected for redundancy just because you are actually on maternity leave, if there is a possibility of redundancy, then this could affect you. However, you must be consulted even though you are not at work. Although you can choose not to take part in any consultations about redundancy, you must be given an opportunity to consult about any redundancy situation. If a selection criteria for redundancy is used, then you must not be disadvantaged by that criteria. For example, if you have not had any recent appraisals, then any information about this will be dated and unreliable. You should also be given the option to choose a time to consult about redundancy when there is information available about the situation so that everyone can look at it or so that you can consider any alternative selection process.
Assuming the selection process is applied fairly, and if you score less than a male colleague, then you should note that you cannot be given preferential treatment which would mean that a male colleague is made redundant instead of you. If the selection process is applied fairly, then the person who “scores” the least is the one who will be at risk of being made redundant. In De Belin v Eversheds Legal Services, the Employment Appeal Tribunal upheld the employment tribunal’s decision that Eversheds discriminated against a male employee when treating a woman on maternity leave more favourably than him. Eversheds gave the woman average scores despite there being better information available to compare them both with fairly.
Redundancy and alternative employment
Finally, if you are selected for redundancy then you do have some enhanced rights when it comes to any alternative employment that may be available within your employer’s business. Your employer must make a positive effort to find you suitable alternative employment. If there is alternative employmenmt that is suitable for you, then you must be placed in that job ahead of your colleagues without the need for a competitive interview.