Whether you’re overjoyed to be going back to school after maternity leave or the idea of going back makes you emotional – or somewhere in between – you definitely need to know what your legal rights are.
When is a teacher required to return to work after maternity leave?
The expectation is that a teacher will return to work at the end of the additional maternity leave (AML) period (52 weeks following the start of leave).
If you’d like to return to work earlier or later than originally anticipated, you must give the school at least 21 days' written notice (starting from the date you originally gave) of your new date of return.
If you don’t want to return to work, you need to give notice in accordance with your employment contract.
Do I have the right to return to the same job after maternity leave?
A teacher who takes only ordinary maternity leave (up to 26 weeks of leave) or a period of shared parental leave in which the total leave is 26 weeks or less is entitled to return to the “same job in which they were employed before their absence” (taken from Pregnancy and Work).
Where a teacher has taken any period of AML, or a period of shared parental leave of more than 26 weeks, they are entitled to return to the same job unless it is not reasonably practicable.
In those circumstances, the employee is entitled to return to a different job that is suitable and appropriate, and on terms and conditions that are as favourable as if they had not been absent.
Can a teacher ask for flexible working after maternity leave?
Teachers with 26 weeks’ continuous service can request flexible working for any reason. A flexible-working request could be submitted for working part-time, job sharing, or working from home or a different location.
The school will need to respond to the request with an outcome within three months, and can reject it only on prescribed business grounds, which include the quality of service, difficulty in reorganising work or the burden of additional costs.
Alice Reeve is a partner at law firm Veale Wasbrough Vizards