If you decide during your maternity leave that returning to work is not the appropriate course of action for you, there is certainly nothing wrong with deciding not to return to work. However, not returning to work could affect the maternity pay which you receive or which you have been receiving. It is important to know what you are entitled to if you don't return to work after maternity leave.
What are your rights if you don't return to work?
If you don't return to work, it is important to ensure your maternity rights are still protected.
- Your contract with your employer should specify a notice period which you need to give to your employer if you are not returning to work. If there is not a notice period specified in your contract, then Citizens Advice UK advise that you should give your employer a week's notice.
- Remember, if you don't return to work you are still entitled to receive money for any holiday that you have remaining, including the time whilst you were on maternity leave.
- If you decide that you are not going to return to work during your maternity leave, you will still be entitled to receive statutory maternity pay. However, if you receive contractual maternity pay, it might be stated in your contract that you have to repay the additional amount of money which you received back to your employer. It might have been specified that you can only keep your full contractual maternity pay if you return to work. You must ensure that you are aware of what has been specified in your contract first.
What happens if you do return to work after maternity leave?
When discussing maternity leave with your employer, they might assume that you will be on maternity leave for the whole 52 weeks, unless specified otherwise. Therefore, if you have a date in mind for when you plan to return to work, you should inform your employer of this.
Upon your return to work after maternity leave, your pay and work conditions must either be the same or better than before you had left for maternity leave. It is considered maternity discrimination or unfair dismissal if you are made redundant, replaced or encouraged to enter another role which is completely different, without sound reasoning from the employer.
For example, if upon your return your employer offers you a role which is different to your previous job role, it could be a sign that they are treating you unfairly. If your previous job still exists and the role which they are offering you is something which you are unable to do or is reduced pay, then this is a sign of maternity discrimination.
Returning to work with flexible hours or conditions
You might have decided that you only want to return to work if you can work on more flexible conditions than previously. For example, working reduced hours, working on particular days or working from home more regularly, could allow you to work more flexibly than previously.
Your employer might decide to grant you these flexible working arrangements but will do so in conjunction with a change to your pay. A meeting should be arranged between you, your employer and your manager to decide upon the provisions of your flexible working arrangements. Your employer should confirm the changes to your working conditions within three months. This should be stated in writing and your contract should be amended accordingly.
If your employer cannot organise flexible working conditions for you, this should not allow them to treat you unfairly or to discriminate against you. Moreover, if the employer cannot provide flexible working conditions for you, they should provide this in writing with their reasoning. Knowing which benefits you are entitled to if you don't return to work is important.