Returning to work after maternity leave

Returning to work after maternity leave can be stressful but it can also be tricky for employers if operationally, things have changed in the absence of the employee on maternity leave. 

The right to return to the same job as before depends on how much maternity leave has been taken. If the employee has taken 26 weeks or less, this is regarded as “ordinary maternity leave”. In this case, the employee has the right to return to exactly the same job.

If the employee has taken more than 26 weeks’ maternity leave, this is called ‘additional maternity leave’. Employees still have the right to return to their job on the same terms as before they left but if that is not possible because there have been significant changes to the organisation, the employee is entitled to be offered a similar job.

However, in this case, the job cannot be on worse terms than before. This means that the following must be the same:

  • pay
  • benefits
  • holiday entitlement
  • seniority
  • where the job is

it is important that employees do not change the job of the maternity leave for change’s sake.  A change such as this can only occur when there have been genuine operational changes – such as a change of manager, or structure, or workload. 

This is a contentious area of employment law and we advise that if an employer needs to make changes to a maternity returner’s job, they contact us to discus at

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