Does an employee have the right to return to the same job after maternity leave?

If an employee returns after an isolated period of ordinary maternity leave (ie no more than 26 weeks), they have the right to return to the job they occupied before their maternity leave. If they have taken additional maternity leave (ie more than 26 weeks), they have the right to return to their original job unless this is not reasonably practicable, in which case they have the right to return to another suitable job, on terms no less favourable than the terms they enjoyed in their original job.

In the more unusual situation where the employee returns to work after a period of ordinary maternity leave that followed on from one or more other periods of statutory leave, for example if it followed on from ordinary and additional maternity leave taken in relation to a different child, their right to return depends on the length of leave already taken. The right to return to the same job applies if the employee returns from ordinary maternity leave that was the last of two or more consecutive periods of statutory leave that did not include:

  • any period of ordinary parental leave of more than four weeks; or
  • any period of statutory leave that when added to any other period of statutory leave (excluding ordinary parental leave) taken in relation to the same child means that the total amount of statutory leave taken in relation to that child totals more than 26 weeks.

If the employee returns to work from a period of ordinary maternity leave that does not fall into the above description, for example because it follows immediately after more than 26 weeks' ordinary and additional maternity leave relating to a different child, they have the right to return to their original job unless this is not reasonably practicable, in which case they have the right to return to another suitable job, on terms no less favourable than the terms they enjoyed in their original job.