Does an employee made redundant while on maternity leave have any special rights?

Yes, an employee on maternity leave is entitled to priority as far as suitable alternative employment is concerned. Where an appropriate vacancy exists she must be offered the alternative employment under a new contract that begins on the day immediately following the day on which her previous contract comes to an end. The new work must be suitable in relation to the employee and appropriate for her to do in the circumstances, and the new contract provisions must not be substantially less favourable than those of the previous contract.

Where a suitable vacancy exists and the employer fails to offer it, the employee's dismissal will be automatically unfair. However, where the employee rejects the alternative employment, or no suitable vacancy exists, the employer is entitled to dismiss by reason of redundancy.

Employees on adoption leave and shared parental leave have the same right to be offered suitable alternative employment if made redundant while on leave. The legislation does not deal with the situation where there is more than one employee in these circumstances for whom a vacancy would be suitable.