I Feel I am Being Treated Unfavorably Since my Return From Maternity Leave

Nicky asks

I returned to work after a year maternity leave with my second baby. I am a senior project manager and I managed big digital builds and was assigned to specific clients with responsibilities such as keeping an eye on client profitability etc and often Client facing.

On first day back I don’t have a computer and I am not even given an introduction talk. I have been assigned a couple of projects via email and asked to hit the ground running. In less than 4 hours I found I have been given about 6/7 projects – nothing is properly explained but projects are all very small builds (completely different game to what I used to manage before hand) and random Clients which I am not asked to manage in any way.

On second day I ask to speak to my manager and to discuss why there has been a change in scope for my role and the reply I am given is:
1. There has been a change in the business which will be announce in few weeks. The company won’t handle any more big builds but only small projects so the change has affected everybody and not only myself.
2. I will have a specific Client assigned. But the Client that she mention is not the agency main client so I won’t be handle it anyway. And I am not the only project manager assigned to that Client.

Also, Last time I had a pay rise/promotion was over 4 years ago. I have discussed with my managers in the past and no progress was ever made in that sense (managers turn over didn’t help! In 4 years my dep saw 5 different managers). As soon as I left on maternity leave a colleague at the same level as myself was promoted to a more senior level. This promotion was never notified to me. Even when I had a meeting re returning to work half way through my mat leave no mention was made of that promotion. I only found out about it upon my return to work by looking at the colleague email signature! I challenged manager about it and she replied she didn’t know she should have informed me about it – even if her plan was for him to become my new in line manager.

I am now very confused and not sure what my rights are in terms of:
1. Type of work. I am been discriminated? The work I am assigned has considerably changed upon my return after maternity leave.
2. Promotion. Where do I stand re promotion? What am I entitled to?

Pro Legal LawyersExpert Answer by: solicitor Louise Taft from Pro Legal

As you have returned from Additional Maternity Leave, your employer can offer you a suitable alternative job if it is not practicable for you to return to the same job. If there has been a genuine change in the focus of the business, it might not be practicable for you to return to the same type of work. The question of whether the change in focus is a suitable alternative will depend on whether it is on the same or similar terms and conditions, not only in terms of pay and hours but also status.

You have the right not to be treated unfavourably because of pregnancy or maternity leave. This right only applies to things that happened whilst you were pregnant or on maternity leave, not after you return. If you can show that you did not get a payrise or promotion because you were pregnant or on maternity leave, you may have a claim. You must act quickly because there is a 3 month time limit to bring a claim for discrimination, running from the date of the unfavourable treatment, unless you can show it was “not reasonably practicable” for you to bring the claim in time. If you did not know about your colleague’s promotion, and believe you would have been promoted if you were not on maternity leave, this would be a good reason for extending the limit. You would need to show that you acted as quickly as possible after finding out about the promotion.

I would usually advise firstly raising matters informally to ask for an explanation and see if you can resolve things internally. However, given potential time limit problems you might want to do this at the same time as contacting ACAS for Early Conciliation, the first step in bringing a claim. If you do this, it might better preserve relationships if you explain to your employer that you are only involving ACAS because of the need to protect your time limit.