Mothers returning from maternity leave are often discriminated against according to recent reports. Below is a quick reminder of some of the basic rights a mother enjoys:
1. A woman should not be treated less favourably because she is exercising or has exercised her right to take maternity leave.
2. In most circumstances, a woman returning from maternity leave has the right to return to exactly the same job as she had prior to her maternity period. The terms and conditions of that job should also remain the same. If the woman has taken more than 26 weeks of leave and it is not reasonably practicable for her to return to exactly the same job as she left, then she is entitled to return to a different but suitable and appropriate job instead, on terms and conditions that are no less favourable to the ones she previously enjoyed.
3. A mother is usually entitled to take unpaid time off work to look after her child if they are ill or injured or to take care of her child when usual care arrangements have been unexpectedly disrupted.
Employers would do well to remember the above because otherwise they may find themselves facing successful employment law claims, such as discrimination or constructive dismissal.
New mothers are facing increasing discrimination when they take maternity leave including being made redundant and switched to zero-hours contracts. Citizens Advice has recorded a nearly 60% rise in the number of women seeking advice about maternity leave issues this year. Just over 3,300 came to the charity with such issues in the year to June compared to 2,099 last year.