According to Reg. 18 of The Maternity and Parental Leave Regulations 1999, an employee who takes Additional Maternity Leave (i.e. between 6-12 months off) is entitled “to return to the job in which she was employed before her absence, or, if it is not reasonably practicable for the employer to permit her to return to that job, to another job which is both suitable for her and appropriate for her to do in the circumstances.”
This means that there is no guarantee of a return to the job you performed before going on maternity leave. If the employer can show that it is not reasonably practicable to allow you to return to that job, they need to find you something that is both suitable and appropriate for you to do instead.
A common issue that arises is whether the reason for not being reasonably practicable to allow the employee to return to her old job is actually justifiable. Case law has suggested that formal reorganisations can amount to a justifiable reason, whereas a simple preference over someone providing maternity cover will not suffice. The employer needs to show that there is a genuine reason which makes it no longer practicable to allow you to return to your old job, this is not just a formality.
In terms of SMP, this is calculated with reference to what is known as the ‘relevant period’ and the fact you have not been earning during your career break will not necessarily impact this.
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