Returning to Work after Maternity Leave?

Returning to Work after Maternity Leave? Know Your Rights

Most women at some point before returning to work after maternity leave wonder what rights they have in relation to the position that they previously held at work.

Right to return to the same position

When a woman returns from maternity leave (either paid or unpaid) they are entitled to return to the same position they held prior to going on maternity leave even if another person had been filling in for them while they were on leave.

How about if you were on a fixed term contract?

Unfortunately, if you were on a fixed term contract prior to going on maternity leave and the contract finished prior to you returning from maternity leave, you will not be entitled to return to your previous position unless you are given a new fixed term contract.

However, if you were on a fixed term contract and it was still valid when you returned from maternity leave, then you are entitled to return to your previous position.

What if my job is no longer there when returning to work after maternity leave?

If your job is no longer available then your employer has options:

  • Find a position for you that is similar to the previous position and matches the skills, status and pay of your previous position.
  • Pay you a redundancy.

If they have simply given your position to someone else and cannot find you another position as detailed above – then this is not a genuine redundancy and you should seek personalised legal advice.

Right to ask for flexible working arrangements

Prior to returning from maternity leave, you have a right to request flexible working arrangements such as working from home (if you are in an industry where this is feasible) or a part time working arrangement as it is written in to the fair work legislation.

Breastfeeding at work

A workplace should provide a room where a woman who is returning from maternity leave can go to privately breastfeed her child or express for her child.

An employer must also give appropriate breaks to the woman so she is able to breastfeed her child (if feasible) or express (usually 2 x 10 minutes breaks in a whole day).

A woman has a right to breastfeed or express in her workplace without being discriminated against.

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