Your Rights Explained: Returning to Work From Maternity Leave

August 16, 2023 |

Your Rights Explained: Returning to Work From Maternity Leave

Returning to work after maternity leave is a momentous step in a woman’s life. It marks a transition from one fulfilling role to another, but it can also come with a mix of emotions and challenges. At PM Law solicitors, we recognise the significance of this journey and are committed to supporting new mothers as they exercise their right to return to work. In this thought leadership blog, we’ll explore the key aspects of returning from maternity leave and provide guidance on how to make this transition smooth and empowering.

Right to Return to Work from Maternity Leave

Under the law, women have a fundamental right to return to the same job after their maternity leave. This legal protection is in place to ensure that new mothers are not discriminated against or disadvantaged due to their choice to start a family. Employers must respect this right, and any attempt to obstruct a woman’s return could be grounds for legal action.

Flexible Working Requests

Returning to work doesn’t necessarily mean reverting to the same pre-maternity leave schedule. Many mothers find that balancing work and family responsibilities requires flexibility. As such, employees have the right to request flexible working arrangements. Employers should consider these requests in a fair and reasonable manner, seeking solutions that benefit both parties. There‚Äôs also the Flexible Working Bill, which was recently passed in Parliament and therefore will go on to form law.

What Is The Flexible Working Bill?

This bill introduces some significant changes to current UK employment law that will benefit employees. In short, the main change The Flexible Working Bill brings is that it allows employees in the UK to make a flexible working request from day one of their employment. The Flexible Working Bill will also:

  • Make it necessary for employers to consult with employees before a flexible working request can be turned down
  • Allow employees to make two flexible working requests in any 12-month period 
  • Require employers to respond to requests within two months (previously three)
  • Remove the requirement for employees to lay out how a flexible working request might impact the employer

What are KIT Days and When Should You Use Them?

KIT days, or Keeping in Touch days, present an excellent opportunity for maternity returnees to ease back into the workplace gradually. These days allow employees to attend work without affecting their entitlement to statutory maternity leave. KIT days can be used for training, meetings, or any other work-related activities. New mothers can utilise these days to familiarise themselves with any changes, updates, or new projects within the company.

Health and Safety when You Return to Work

Prioritising the health and safety of employees is of utmost importance. For maternity returnees, employers must conduct a thorough risk assessment to ensure a safe working environment. This assessment should consider any potential hazards that may arise due to the physical or psychological changes associated with pregnancy and childbirth. Providing a supportive atmosphere can foster a smooth reintegration into the workplace.

Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is a natural and essential aspect of a baby’s early development. As a new mother returning to work, you have the right to continue breastfeeding or expressing milk at work. Employers must accommodate these needs by providing a private, comfortable space where you can pump milk during working hours. Understanding your rights and discussing your needs openly with your employer can help ensure a positive breastfeeding experience at the workplace.

Unfair Dismissal

Returning from maternity leave should not expose you to the risk of unfair dismissal. If you believe that your employer has dismissed you due to your maternity leave or return to work, it is essential to seek legal advice promptly. Unfair dismissal is against the law, and you have the right to challenge such actions.

Final Thoughts On Returning To Work From Maternity

The return to work from maternity leave is an important milestone that should be embraced with confidence and support. At PM Law solicitors, we believe in empowering new mothers by providing comprehensive guidance on their rights to return to work.

Understanding your entitlements regarding flexible working, KIT days, health and safety, breastfeeding, and protection against unfair dismissal is crucial for a smooth and successful transition. By working together, we can create an inclusive workplace that values and supports women throughout their professional and personal journeys.

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The Employment Team