I had a baby four months ago and I am currently on maternity leave and I’m due to go back to work later in the year.
There have been a number of redundancies at the company I work for and I’m now worried my job might be next.
Is it legal for a company to make someone redundant while they are on maternity leave?
Is it legal to make someone redundant while they are on maternity leave?
Rebecca Goodman, of This is Money, replies: It is possible to be made redundant at any point in your career, whether this is mandatory or you’re chosen for voluntary redundancy.
However, if you are in this situation it’s important you make sure you’re not being unfairly dismissed and that your employer is playing by the rules.
When it comes to redundancy and maternity, while this can still happen the employee needs to be treated fairly and the employer needs to act within the law.
Tracey Moss, employment expert at Citizens Advice, replies: ‘You can still be made redundant if you’re pregnant or on maternity leave, but you can’t be made redundant because of that.
‘If you’ve been made redundant because you are on maternity leave, or for other reasons connected to your pregnancy, such as taking time off sick, this counts as unfair dismissal and discrimination. In this case you may be able to challenge your redundancy.
‘You may also be able to challenge your employer’s decision if you’re made redundant and your job role still exists or the person covering your maternity leave is still doing your job after your dismissal.
‘Speak to your local Citizens Advice, where an adviser will help you work out if you have a claim, and advise you on your next steps.’
Rebecca Goodman adds: There are certain rules around maternity pay and redundancy.
If your employer has a specific scheme it has set up for maternity pay, check this first as it may be more generous than the statutory amounts available.
If you are made redundant it can’t be because you are on maternity leave
The basic law around this states that if a woman is made redundant before the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth, they won’t be paid statutory maternity pay but may be able to claim maternity allowance.
If the redundancy is in this week, or after it, they will be entitled to statutory maternity pay, if they meet the qualifying conditions, for 39 weeks unless they start a new job.
Any additional pay which is due through a specific company policy will usually end when the contract ends unless something is agreed.
Employers need to follow a certain set of procedures when they make someone redundant including making sure they are consulted, given the proper notice period and paid any redundancy money due.
When someone is made redundant it has to be for a fair reason, such as their disciplinary record, although if a whole department and all the employees within it are closed down, the firm won’t have to go through a selection process.
For those on maternity leave, they must be offered a suitable alternative vacancy if there is one within the company.
If you’re made redundancy whilst on maternity leave, or at any other point, and you think it was unfair you can appeal the decision by contacting your employer and explaining why this is the case. If it isn’t resolved you may need to make a claim to an employment tribunal.
There are a number of charities and organisations which offer free help, advice and legal support to those facing redundancy or those looking for a new job.
The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) offer free help on all employment issues while your local Citizens Advice Bureau and the charities StepChange and Turn2Us can also help.
To find out how much pay you are entitled to, and how it is taxed, see our full guide to redundancy rights.