Advice: What are my rights during maternity leave?

Pat Hutchinson MBE.
Pat Hutchinson MBE.

By Pat Hutchinson MBE, District Manager, Newtownabbey CAB

Q: I have been on maternity leave for six months and I have been told that there is a possible promotion in my department and I have not been informed. I also feel out of touch with the workplace. What are my rights?

A: When you are on maternity leave, your employer should keep you informed of issues which may affect you. For example, you should be informed of any relevant promotion opportunities or job vacancies that arise during your maternity leave.

The amount and type of contact between you and your employer must be reasonable. Contact can be made in any way that best suits either or both of you. For example, it could be by telephone, by email, by letter, by you making a visit to the workplace or in other ways.

You are also allowed to work for up to ten days during your maternity leave without it affecting your maternity pay. These are called ‘Keeping in Touch Days’.

Both you and your employer must agree about whether you work any Keeping in Touch Days, how many you will work, when you will work them and how much you will be paid for them. You are under no obligation to work them and your employer is under no obligation to offer them to you.

You must also agree between you what sort of work you will do. Keeping in Touch Days could be particularly useful in enabling you to attend a conference, undertake a training activity or attend for a team meeting.

The rate of pay is a matter for agreement with your employer. It may be set out in your employment contract or agreed on a case-by-case basis. However, you must be paid at least the National Minimum Wage.

If an employer fails to notify an employee of potential career developments while she is on maternity leave, this is likely to be discrimination because of sex discrimination and a breach of the implied term of trust and confidence in the employment contract. A woman who is pregnant or on maternity leave will have been unlawfully discriminated against if her employer treats her unfavourably because she is pregnant or on maternity leave.

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