Returning to Work after Maternity Leave
Maternity Leave Rights provide for all female employees to return to work at the end of their leave. Before the employee begins her maternity leave, a date should be agreed upon for her return to work. If the employee does not wish to change this date, she need give no notification to her employer prior to her return to work. Notification may however still be considered as a matter of simple courtesy. If, on the other hand, the employee decides to return to work earlier than planned, she is required to give her employer 8 weeks’ notice of the new date. If 8 weeks’ notice is not given, an employer may require an employee to return to work on a later date, 8 weeks from the date on which the employee’s notice was given.
Whilst all employees on maternity leave have the right to return to work, the amount of leave they have taken may have a bearing on the work that they return to. If an employee takes 26 weeks’ Ordinary Maternity Leave only, her maternity leave rights enable her to return to her original job with the same terms and conditions, salary, seniority and hours that she left behind. In other words, the employee can pick up precisely where she left off. For employee’s that opt to take a further 26 weeks’ Additional Maternity Leave, the situation may be different. An employee remains entitled to return to her original job after Additional Maternity Leave. However, if her employer is unable to give the employee her old job back and has good reasons for this, the employee is entitled to a suitable alternative position. Any such alternative job must offer seniority, terms and conditions and pay that are at least equal to the position the employee had prior to the start of her maternity leave.
When an employee returns to work from maternity leave, they may be breastfeeding their newborn child. If this is the case, the employee should inform her employer in writing, giving her employer sufficient time to conduct a risk assessment. An employee that is breastfeeding upon her return to work must be given a clean, private area to express and store milk.
There is always the possibility that an employee will decide that she does not want to return to work after her maternity leave. It is perfectly permissible for maternity leave and resignation to be timed in such a way that the employee takes her full 52 weeks’ maternity leave, drawing all available maternity pay, and ends her employment at the end of her maternity leave.