Many thanks for your patience, I am pleased to be able to continue assisting with your query now. First of all, I am sorry to hear about the issues you have experienced in your situation.
There are certain protections about people on maternity and it will make no difference whether it is a headcount reduction or not.
Employees who are on maternity leave have certain rights if a redundancy situation develops whilst they are away. The Maternity and Parental Leave Regulations 1999 state that if "it is not practicable by reason of redundancy" for the employer to continue to employ an employee under her existing contract, the employee is entitled to be offered a suitable alternative vacancy (where one is available) to start immediately after her existing contract ends.” This also includes a vacancy with an associated employer.
You can refer to the specific regulation here:
If the employee is offered a new contract so that redundancy is avoided, then it must meet the following criteria:
- The work to be done is both suitable and appropriate for her to do in the circumstances.
- The capacity and place in which she is to be employed, and the other terms and conditions of her employment, are not substantially less favourable to her than if she had continued to be employed in her old job
When a redundancy situation exists, the employer has a general duty to try and offer those who are at risk of redundancy any suitable alternative employment that is available at the time. However, the Regulations effectively give employees who are on maternity leave priority over other employees when such offers are made. If a suitable alternative position existed, it should be offered to the employee on maternity leave first, before being offered to others. Failure to do so would breach the statutory regulations and can also amount to discrimination because of pregnancy and/or maternity.
Unfortunately you cannot go back on maternity leave – once you have returned and have made your decision you will be treated in the same way as someone who is not on maternity leave.