I have enjoyed the first two parts of the current BBC Drama, The Replacement. A good cast has worked with a lively script to create menace in the workplace. I find that I don’t quite trust the psychiatrist husband as well as the maternity cover worker, there is something of Rosemary’s Baby about it. Perhaps that is taking things too far.
The right of a pregnant woman to take maternity leave from their job and to return when maternity leave ends
The story brings to the screen a real life drama played out in many workplaces. I have pursued sex discrimination claims in relation to pregnancy, involving similar cases. The key principle of maternity law involves the right of a pregnant woman to take maternity leave from their job and to return to their job when maternity leave ends. A straightforward enough idea is of course more complicated in practice, not least because of the fact that we are dealing with real people.
The law says that the right is to return to “your job”
I am sure that commencing maternity leave will bring anxiety in a number of respects. Leaving an established position in any organisation will lead to some natural concern about the impact upon job security and status. The law says that the right is to return to “your job”, but how easy is it to be away for up to a year. Some weeks ago I wrote in this blog about a report detailing the discrimination encountered in the workplace by pregnant workers. The scale of the less favourable treatment is a national scandal, bearing in mind the social importance of maternity rights, and the fact that the legal structures associated with the rights have existed for decades.
The task for employers and co-workers is to recognise the importance of maternity rights
Employers have different arrangements for maternity leave cover, and it is important for there to be a proper plan. Not all involve recruiting replacements, but maternity leave cover is a common reason for temporary worker recruitment. I have run cases involving the difficulties which can arise when a woman returns to work and does not get her job back. Whilst the cases have not involved people falling through skylights, they have often involved real trauma for the people concerned. Coming back to work after perhaps a year away, leaving their baby and re-entering the work environment is never easy. The task for employers and co-workers is to recognise the importance of maternity rights and to ensure that a replacement or replacement arrangements do not exclude or penalise the returner. I do though look forward to the third and final episode, and I expect trouble!