Will I have the same job when I return from maternity leave?

After returning from Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML), you have the right to go back to the same job that you were in before you went on leave.

After returning from Additional Maternity Leave (AML) you also have the right to return to the same job unless your employer can demonstrate that it is not reasonably practicable to have kept that job open for you. In this case you are still entitled to an alternative job that is both suitable and appropriate for you. The new job must be on no less favourable terms and conditions and your seniority and pension rights must be unaffected. 

The entitlements to return to the same job also apply if you are taking Shared Parental Leave.  The rules are slightly more complicated, to reflect the fact that the leave is shared between you and your partner, but the basic right to return is the same. In summary:

  • where the total amount of maternity, adoption, paternity and shared parental leave take add up to less than 26 weeks, the person taking the leave has the right to return to the same job as they were doing before they went on leave. (26 weeks is equivalent to the length of Ordinary Maternity Leave). Unpaid parental leave of up to four weeks can be added without affecting this right.
  • Where the total amount of maternity, adoption, paternity and shared parental leave taken is more than 26 weeks, the returning parent must be offered the same job unless it is not reasonably practicable, in which case they must be offered a suitable and appropriate job with terms and conditions that are not less favourable than their previous job, and with seniority and pension rights unaffected.

For more information, see workSMART's Shared Parental Leave section and the Acas guidance on Shared Parental Leave (PDF, 753KB) and the SPLASH portal.

A woman on maternity, adoption or shared parental leave also has some extra protection where her job is made redundant during the leave. An employee in this situation must be offered a suitable vacancy, either with the employer or any subsidiary or associate of the employer, if there is a job available.

The vacancy must be suitable and appropriate, and its terms must be not significantly less favourable than your existing contract terms.

You must not be made to participate in a competitive assessment for this job. If it is suitable and available, you have the right to be offered it ahead of other candidates.

If you unreasonably refuse the role, you may lose your right to a statutory redundancy payment. Only employees with two years’ service qualify for a statutory redundancy payment.

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.