Thank you. 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 and appropriate for her to do in the circumstances.”
This means that there is no guarantee of a return to the job the employee performed before going on maternity leave. If the employer can show that it is not reasonably practicable to allow a return to that job, they need to find something that is both suitable and appropriate for the employee 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 relevant and justifiable. Sadly there is very little case law that covers that and there are only a handful of lower tribunal decisions that have examined this. For example, formal reorganisations of the business can amount to a justifiable reason, whereas a simple preference over someone providing maternity cover will not suffice. In your case you have not been replaced per se, but you will be sharing your duties with someone else. Whilst you have no guarantee of doing your old job, the employer may struggle to justify why it is no longer reasonable or practicable to allow you to return to it because they have employed someone to start a maternity cover position when you are returning from maternity, which makes no sense whatsoever. Even if this person had started the cover when you left, the employer should have planned ahead and only given them a fixed term contract for the duration of the leave you were taking.
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